York’s professor of soul does Hollywood

From music fan to teacher to filmmaker, Rob Bowman has always been driven to share his passion for the music of a generation – and this past weekend, he took his fascination with soul to Hollywood as a guest speaker and producer at the Mods & Rockers Film Festival (Slight Return!).

A professor of ethnomusicology in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, Bowman has contributed extensive – and Grammy-award-winning – liner notes and commentary for many CD/DVD productions and written books and articles about the early days of rock & roll. However, on this occasion he was appearing at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles as a co-producer, journalist and narrator at screenings of two films he helped make.

Right: Rob Bowman

The two productions, Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding and The Stax/Volt Revue: Live in Norway 1967, premiered at the festival on Monday with Bowman on hand to answer questions, both as producer and Stax Records historian.

In between screenings, Bowman took part in a discussion of the films with Redding’s widow, Zelma, session trumpeter Wayne Jackson of the Stax studio session band, The Mar-Keys.

In the documentary Dreams to Remember, which he co-produced, Bowman interviewed the legendary songwriting collaborator/guitarist Steve Cropper (of Booker T. and the MGs), Stax Records founder Jim Stewart, Jackson and Zelma Redding. The 91-minute film celebrates the life and career of Otis Redding incorporating 16 classic full-length performances (many not seen in over 40 years) and includes ultra-rare footage of his last performance just two days before his death, at age 26, in a plane crash with members of his band in 1967.

Left: Otis Redding

The second production, a 78-minute digitally restored copy of a Norwegian Television broadcast, is the only known full-length film of the legendary 1967 Stax Revue – the European tour that sparked the soul revolution. The performance includes appearances by such famed artists as Sam & Dave, Arthur Conley, and Booker T. and the MGs, and features the entirety of Otis Redding’s five-song set. Bowman co-produced the DVD, provided the commentary track and wrote the liner notes.

The productions are not Bowman’s first forays into the film world; he has assisted on several productions in the past and even acted in one film, The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico, in which he played a musicologist (named Rob Bowman…) who is researching a book on Terrifico. (See the Sept. 7, 2005 issue of YFile.)

A York alumnus (BA ‘78, MFA ’82) and one of the longest-serving instructors at York, Bowman began teaching his courses on rock & roll and popular music 29 years ago at age 22. He is also director of York’s Graduate Program in Musicology & Ethnomusicology. In 2005, he was deemed one of the top 10 teachers in TVO’s Best Lecturer competition (see the Sept. 8, 2005 issue of YFile). He is also the author of Soulsville, U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records (Music Sales Corp. 1997).

For more information on the films, visit the Mods & Rockers Film Festival Web site.