Tuesday, February 27, 2018

This Week At The Cinema: Mayo and The Oscars

Posted By on Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 11:41 AM


For something so bland and innocuous, mayo can inspire very strong opinions. But would it change your opinion of the condiment to find out that it helped defeat the Nazis?

The story is much more complex than that, of course, as you will find out when see Monsieur Mayonnaise tonight at Malco Ridgeway. It's the final night of the Morris and Mollye Fogelman International Jewish Film Festival, and they're teaming up with Indie Memphis to present this story of one artist's search for the real story of his father's involvement in the French Resistance during World War II.

Monsieur Mayonnaise - Trailer from Seventh Art Releasing on Vimeo.

Or, if that's not your speed, there's always Primal Rage: Bigfoot Reborn at Malco Cordova. Get some of the cryptoid trailer action!

Then on Wednesday at the National Civil Rights Museum, Indie Memphis presents an encore screening of a bloc of 11 short films by Memphis artists created for the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968, including "Arkabutla" by filmmaker Katori Hall.
A still from "Arkabutla" by director Katori Hall.
  • A still from "Arkabutla" by director Katori Hall.
The program begins at 7:00 PM, and you can get tickets and see the full lineup on the Indie Memphis website. While you're there, you can also get tickets to the Indie Memphis Red Carpet Oscar party at the Rec Room. The party includes food and a chance to beat Memphis Commercial Appeal film writer John Beifuss at picking Oscar winners. It's sure to be a good time!

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Music Video Monday: Summer Avenue

Posted By on Mon, Feb 26, 2018 at 10:33 AM

We're here to bring light to your Monday with a world premiere video!
The members of Summer Avenue are still in high school, but they've already got an album's worth of songs and a record deal. For Some Sort of Color, drummer William Trotter, guitarist Christopher Dunn, bassist Will Kelley, and keyboardist Mike Kelley teamed up with producer Kevin Cubbins to record at Music + Arts Studio. The song "Cut It Close", which grew from a Dunn composition, made a good album opener and lead single. "It's an upbeat, good representation of what we wanted the album to be," said the band in an email.

The music video, directed by Laura Jean Hocking and shot by Jack Prudhomme, features the band's unlikely visual motif. "We have a history with our lamps. We often use them as set design for our shows. We wanted the video to be deadpan and abrupt. It's very Wes Anderson inspired. It's supposed to feel like we're the only people in an empty world. It's just us and the lamps."

If you would like to see your music video on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Music Video Monday: Daz Rinko

Posted By on Mon, Feb 19, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Got those Monday morning blues? MVM has a video that feels you.

Daz Rinko's day is not going well in his new video for "Liam Gallagher", a single from his August, 2017 EP "Black Boy Joy". His car won't start, his world is spinning round, and his friends don't care. At least he's got some Aldo's pizza to serve as a short term Oasis.

If you'd like to see your music video featured on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Black Panther

Posted By on Sat, Feb 17, 2018 at 1:50 PM

One of the most remarkable things about Black Panther is how unremarkable it is. To beat a dead sports metaphor, Ryan Coogler is a player who gets the fundamentals right.
Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther
  • Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther
Creating a successful action-adventure movie has been a solved problem for at least 70 years. Black Panther features some stunning visual moments. Coogler and Rachel Morrison (who just became the first woman to be nominated by the Academy for Best Cinematographer for her work in Mudbound) create some of the freest camera movements in recent memory. Industrial Light and Magic’s technical wizardry is on point, as usual. But the storytelling and characterization techniques that really make Black Panther tick were known to Michael Curtiz when he made The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938, and The Sea Hawk in 1940.

This is not meant as a left handed compliment towards Coogler and his crew. Quite the opposite. Look at all the directors who have been handed the infinite resources that 21st-century corporate filmmaking can supply, but were unable to craft a compelling product. Michael Bay, I’m looking at you. You too, Zach Snyder. And yet, these men’s failures were rewarded time and time again, while the most financially successful black filmmaker was Tyler Perry, operating outside the Hollywood system. Why do you think that is?

Curtiz had Errol Flynn, a man of exceptional physique and deceptively subtle acting acumen. Coogler has Chadwick Boseman, who comes into his own as a heroic movie star in the Flynn tradition. Boseman’s T’Challa is superheroicaly strong, but he’s also vulnerable, empathetic, and occasionally self-deprecating. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown of Wakanda, but from the first scene with his on-again, off-again love interest Nakia (Lupita Noyong’o) he is also a person with recognizable human problems. Not to belabor a point, but compare Boseman’s performance with Henry Cavil’s turgid Superman in Man of Steel.

Better than Superman. Am I right?
  • Better than Superman. Am I right?
Speaking of Noyong’o, Black Panther shows how criminally underutilized she has been, even while having a nominally successful acting career. Nakia could have been a throwaway character like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts from Iron Man, but instead she’s a crack Wakandan spy with a life of her own beyond her royal boyfriend. Noyong’o threads the needle, taking the material seriously but putting just enough comic book flamboyance into her performance to make it fun to watch.

In fact, the army of women is Black Panther’s most surprising element. From Latitia Wright’s Shuri, T’Challa’s 16-year-old sister who provides the mandatory hacker character, Danai Gurira as Okoye, T’Challa’s fierce bodyguard, and Angela Basset as T’Challa’s mother Ramonda, this film is a parade of perfect bone structure. But the women all get something meaningful to do besides look good. The film’s most Shakespearean moment comes in a confrontation between Nakia and Okoye, when the spy and soldier must each choose between personal loyalty to T’Challa and the oaths they swore to the throne of Wakanda.
Dani Gurira (left) and Lupita Noyong’o (center)
  • Dani Gurira (left) and Lupita Noyong’o (center)
Superhero movies only work when they have a great villain, like Jack Nicholson’s Joker or James Spader’s Ultron. Curtiz had Claude Rains. Coogler has Michael B. Jordan, who starred in the director’s debut Fruitvale Station. The construction of Killmonger gets to the soul of Black Panther. He’s of the same royal lineage as T’Challa, but he has come to some very different conclusions about Wakanda’s place in the world. The advanced civilization has remained hidden for thousands of years to protect itself against man’s savagery, and keep its advanced weapons out of the hands of bad actors. Killmonger asks, if Wakanda is so powerful, why didn’t they step in and stop the horrors of slavery and colonialism?

Like Holocaust survivor Magneto in the early X-Men films, he’s got a valid point, and comes to the same conclusion. We, the oppressed, should rule. We’ll get it right, and the fact of our oppression and the righteousness of our cause makes whatever means we use morally irrelevant. Killmonger, like Magneto, is as blind to the corrupting influence of power, as he is blinded by his righteous hatred.
Michael B. Jordan
  • Michael B. Jordan
Black Panther synthesizes many influences, but the most unlikely one is Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Wakanda’s mix of soaring skyscrapers and natural elements invokes Naboo. The final confrontation between Black Panther and Killmonger uses visual and rhythmic elements from Phantom Menace’s climactic lightsaber duel. Perhaps Coogler saw what George Lucas had attempted — make a swashbuckling action-adventure movie against a backdrop of grown-up political intrigue and gray moral choices—and took what worked while discarding the rest. That Phantom Menace sank into a confusing morass, while Black Panther soars is a testament to the vision of Coogler and the talent of his team.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Olympic Ideal Meets Reality In PyeongChang

Posted By on Thu, Feb 15, 2018 at 1:38 PM

The first sporting event ever broadcast on television was the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The Olympic movement was four decades old at that point, but, for better or worse, it came of age with the birth of television.

In 2018, the television medium is in a state of flux. The moving pictures on the screen are better than ever, but online streaming is changing the audience's taste and expectations. Live sports is supposedly what the traditional TV delivery system does best. It's the strongest argument for the continued existence of the networks and the pay cable system. NBC long ago won the rights to broadcast the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and its parent company Comcast, which hold the lion's share of the Memphis broadband duopoly, intends to make the most of the situation. In my case, that meant relentlessly pushing me to send in my old box and take up their new X1 system.

Now, if you're going to be making the case that your rent-seeking business model is still viable in the Netflix age, your best first move is to deliver a working product. After a promised $50 drop in my monthly rate finally cajoled me into plunging into the hell dimension of frustration and inconvenience that is dealing with Comcast, I ordered the new box on the Xfinity website. Surely, in our current age of techo-wizardry, the city's largest communications company could deliver a working product to me. After all, my Apple TV was streaming content into my eyeballs only minutes after I hooked it up, and it's much more complex than a cable set top box. If Comcast is shipping product, they've got this stuff nailed down, right?

I was so wrong. It took five days to get my new box up and running. I spoke to no less than six Comcast techs on the phone and two on Twitter.  Day of this seamless process was Super Bowl Sunday, so I missed the big game. Finally, a tech came out to my house and got it running. I asked him why none of the eight people Comcast had put me in contact with had been able to fix the problems. He shrugged, "I guess they didn't know what they were doing."

Fortunately, two days later, the South Korean organizers of the PyeongChange Olympics proved that they did know what they were doing. The opening ceremonies came off very smoothly on television, despite the fact that there was an ongoing cyberattack of probable Russian origin trying to derail the festivities.

The games are one of the few moments when the entire world comes together, so there's always a geopolitical angle to proceedings. This year's two biggest stories are the Russian team's banning for a systemic doping program and North and South Korea fielding a unified team. The Russian athletes who could pass drug tests are competing under the Olympic flag, even though the team's banning was the likely motive behind the cyberattack. As for the two Koreas, they certainly didn't seem like a people staring down the possibility of a catastrophic war, no matter how Vice President Pence was there to spin it. Maybe you can count that as a win for the Olympic ideal.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I like the Olympics. Yes, there are a lot of things wrong with the way the Olympics are handled and presented in 2018. But there are problems with every human organization and endeavor in 2018. At least someone is taking the Olympic truce seriously. The comity and good sportsman- (sportsperson?) ship of the games seems to be in full effect, temporarily, at least, overcoming the darkness and horror all around us.

As a TV spectacle, this year's games have already exceeded the glum, vaguely scary 2014 Sochi games. The organizers have fought gusty winds and extreme cold, but the artificial snow has been groomed to perfection, and the competitions have been very well administered. NBC seems to have taken the criticism of the last couple of games to heart, and their coverage is much improved. The commentary is more thoughtful and informative and, crucially, seems to lack the urge to keep talking even when they have nothing to say, with a couple of exceptions such as the women's snowboarding competition, which was plagued by a chatty announcer as well as a high winds, and downhill skier-turned announcer Bode Miller's thoughtless comment that a female competitor's recent struggles were the result of her getting married.

Visually, the games have never looked better. The 4K video brings out incredible detail and contrast in the often washed out white snowy environment. The use of drones has been exceptionally well handled, bringing cross country skiing and the halfpipe snowboarding events new perspectives that add to the depth of viewers' experience.

With everything going so well, it was immensely jarring when the coverage was interrupted yesterday afternoon with breaking news reports on the latest mass gun slaughter in America, this time in a Florida high school. That night, as victors dedicated their performances to the victims, it felt like the spell had been broken. The Olympic ideal, it seems, is no match for the harshness of American reality.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

This Week At The Cinema: Love, Dance, and C.K. Dexter Haven

Posted By on Tue, Feb 13, 2018 at 1:13 PM

If you're looking to veer out of the mainstream this week, you've got plenty of options in Memphis movie theaters.
Eli Harboe gets high in Thelma.
  • Eli Harboe gets high in Thelma.
In director Joacim Trier's Thelma, a shy young woman's world is opened up when she leaves her small Norweigian town to attend a university. But at the same time she's finding herself, she's also manifesting strange new supernatural powers. It's a coming of age monster story reminiscent of Raw, 7 PM tonight at Malco Ridgeway, and you can buy tickets from the Indie Memphis website.

Across town at the Memphis Jewish Community Center's Belz Theater, the Morris and Mollye Folgelman International Jewish Film Festival continues with The Exception, a thriller set in the opening days of World War II starring Christopher Plummer as Kaiser Wilhelm.

On Wednesday, Indie Memphis celebrates Valentine's Day with a 20th anniversary screening of Love Jones at the intimate 652 Marshall film space.
On Thursday at the MJCC, a true story of love in the ruins of postwar Europe. Director Peter Garos adapted the story of his parents' pen pal romance in Fever At Dawn.

On Saturday on the Pink Palace IMAX screen, the new 3D film Dream Big will be sharing screen time with one of the first Disney live-action classics, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

Saturday night on Summer Avenue, it's a Soul Cinema Dance Party at the Time Warp Drive-In. The evening starts off with the timeless hip hop musical Breakin', which immortalized mid-80s street dance culture while singlehandedly launching an entire genre of hip hop and dance battle films (I'm looking at you, Bring It On franchise!)

The second movie on the program is another hip hop classic. Kid 'n Play brought their high altitude hairstyles and easy charm to House Party, which also features a young Martin Lawrence, fresh off his turn in Do The Right Thing. It's a high school party classic for the ages. 

Sunday afternoon at the Paradiso, one of the greatest casts in film history returns to the big screen. In 1940, director George Cukor's adaptation of the hit play The Philadelphia Story brought together Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart to swill cocktails and hurl witty insults in one of the most hilarious wedding party disasters of all time.

The International Jewish Film Festival will host the tastiest film event of the month happens on Sunday, Feb 18 at MJCC. Hummus: The Movie explores the history and present of everyone's favorite creamy bean treat. Then, Israeli chef Abe Haak will demonstrate good hummus technique at a post-show meal. The 72-minute film starts at 5 PM, with dinner afterwards.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Music Video Monday: FreeWorld

Posted By on Mon, Feb 12, 2018 at 11:19 AM

It's time for a double shot of Music Video Monday!
Who are FreeWorld? Just Memphis' greatest jam band for three decades running. Last October, Richard Cushing's band of fellow travelers celebrated their 30th anniversary with a record release party at the Levitt Shell. To ease your transition into the working week, here are two flawless performances from that night that will make you sick of winter. When does the new Levitt Shell season start, anyway?

If you'd like to see your music video on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Memphis Film Prize Kicks Off 2018 Season

Posted By on Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 3:45 PM

Tonight the Memphis Film Prize holds its annual kickoff party.
This is the third year the Prize has been offered in Memphis. The Prize Foundation, created by filmmaker and Louisiana Film Prize originator Gregory Kallenberg, offers $10,000 for the best short film created by a Memphis area filmmaker. "The film prize has become a proving ground for filmmakers all over the country," says Kallenberg. "We are proud to play a role in building the indie film scene in Memphis."

The entries will be boiled down to the top ten, which will be screened at the prize festival in the fall. The winner, determined by the combination of jury and audience awards, will receive $10,000.

Tonight's event at the Cove will allow filmmakers to register their projects for the prize. Projects registered tonight will be eligible for two $500 grants to be given out to two filmmakers selected by drawing.

"We are incredibly excited about starting our third year in Memphis," says Film Prize Coordinator David Merrill. We invite all filmmakers, cast, crew, film enthusiasts, and film prize fans to celebraet the new year of Film Prize with us."

The kickoff party is tonight at The Cove from 6:30 to 9 PM. You can find out more information about Memphis Film Prize on their website.

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

This Week At The Cinema: International Features And Shorts, Plus Sammy Davis, Jr.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 6, 2018 at 1:31 PM

It's a busy week in theaters!

Tuesday night presents a wealth of options. The Morris and Mollye Fogelman International Jewish Film Festival presents a comedy from Morocco at the Memphis Jewish Community Center auditorium. Midnight Orchestra tells the story of a man trying to put together a tribute to his late father by finding all the musicians he played with.

At Studio on the Square, Indie Memphis presents In The Fade, a German drama about a woman who loses her family to neo-Nazi terrorists, and the price her quest for revenge exacts.

Meanwhile, over at Crosstown Arts, the monthly Shoot & Splice series presents a lecture by Rhodes College Film and Media Studies Professor Rashna Richards based on her book For The Love of Cinema: Teaching Our Passions In And Out Of The Classroom.
Rashna Richards
  • Rashna Richards
On Wednesday night, Feb. 7, at Crosstown Arts, the International Shorts program from Indie Memphis 2017 presents snack sized movies from Norway, Canada, India, China, Mexico, and South Korea.

Thursday's offering from the International Jewish Film Festival explores a dark time in twentieth century history when Nelson Mandela faced a death sentence for conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government of South Africa. An Act of Defiance is screening at Malco Ridgeway Four.

Then on Sunday, at the MJCC, a biopic about the beloved, mercurial entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr.

See you at the movies!

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Monday, February 5, 2018

Music Video Monday: with Bravado

Posted By on Mon, Feb 5, 2018 at 11:30 AM

We've got our second world premiere in a row for today's Music Video Monday!
Memphis band with Bravado recently recorded their EP "Silent Film" with Cody Landers at Young Avenue Sound. Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Julian Stanz, bassist Kayla Stanz, drummer Tom Hale, and guitarist CJ work a classic alternative/grunge vibe with lead single "We're All Alone Together". The video, which features some arresting images, a little bomb throwing, and a sweet Gibson Thunderbird, was directed by Hot Key Studios' Blake Heimbach. Here it is, a world premiere to help you rock away your post-Super Bowl hangover!

If you would like to see your music video featured on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Morris and Mollye Fogelman International Jewish Film Festival Expands In Its Fifth Year

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 12:26 PM

The fifth annual International Jewish Film Festival opens tonight, beginning a month of films highlighting the Jewish experience in both the the past and present.

“Thanks to Marcy Stagner’s direction, The Morris and Mollye Fogelman
International Jewish Film Festival has added a much-enjoyed aspect to the Memphis film scene. This festival stands out in its unique celebration of Jewish culture,” says Deputy Film Director Sharon Fox O'Guin.

This year's festival will extend through the entire month of February, with nine films screening at the Malco Paradiso, the Memphis Jewish Community Center Belz Theater, and the Ridgeway Four. The opening night film at the Paradiso is Children of Chance, a film by French director Lugi Zampa about a young Jewish boy who is put into a hospital with a broken leg just as the Nazis are taking over France in 1940. As he is having a formative experience with other sick kids his age in the hospital, his family is detained by the fascists. A heroic doctor shields his charges as the world crumbles around them.

Tickets to Children of Chance, as well as the other films on the schedule, are $7 for community, $5 for members. You can buy your tickets on the Memphis Jewish Community Center website. We'll be covering the festival throughout the month here on Memphis Flyer Film/TV Blog.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

This Week At The Cinema: Rock vs North Korea, Ballet, and Anime

Posted By on Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 3:11 PM

Muisc and politics collide in Memphis movie theaters this week.

The Indie Memphis weekly film series brings us an unusual documentary. The Slovenian band Laibach have been bringing their weird, satirical totalitarian industrial music to the world since 1982. But in 2015, they went really weird by attempting to play a show in North Korea. Officials of the authoritarian country were confused about exactly how seriously to take Laibach's act—which made them like everybody else in the world—and the gig threatened to turn into a full blown international incident. The documentary about the band's quest to play in North Korea, Liberation Day, screens tonight at Studio on the Square.

On Wednesday night at Crosstown Arts, Saturday Church, a popular movie from last year's Ouflix festival returns. In Saturday Church, a young gay man, tormented by his family and peers, retreats into a fantasy world, complete with fully staged musical numbers, until he finds acceptance in an LBGTQ support group.

A classic anime is getting its first ever US theatrical release. Cardcaptor Sakura: The Sealed Card was released in 2000, and has circulated on DVD since 2003. It's hitting the big screen now ahead of a new Cardcaptor series released this year.

If you're looking for something a little more high culture, you can see the Bolshoi Ballet dancing The Lady of the Camelias 1 PM on Sunday at the Paradiso.

See you at the movies!

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Music Video Monday: The Love Light Orchestra

Posted By on Mon, Jan 29, 2018 at 1:49 PM

It's time to swing into your week with a world premiere on Music Video Monday!
The Love Light Orchestra is probably the biggest band we've ever featured on Music Video Monday. The band's ten members, led by vocalist and MVM alum John Nemeth and guitarist Joe Restivo, are dedicated to reviving a sound heard in Memphis during the height of Beale Street's importance. Sometimes referred to as "jump blues", this kind of groovy, horn heavy, up tempo dance music was a transitional phase between big band jazz and R&B. If you were walking down Beale Street in the immediate postwar era, this is what you would hear coming out of every watering hole.

The Love Light Orchestra recorded their album for Blue Barrel Records live at Bar DKDC, with Grammy-winning engineer Matt Ross-Spang at the controls, and cameras on hand to capture the action. Here is the world premiere of "See Why I Love You" from The Love Light Orchestra, directed by Laura Jean Hocking.

If you would like to see your music video featured on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

This Week At The Cinema: Wall Street Drama, Love On The Rocks, and David Hockney

Posted By on Tue, Jan 23, 2018 at 11:33 AM

It's officially awards season, which means there's plenty of good stuff at the movie theaters this week, such as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; The Shape Of Water; The Disaster Artist; and Phantom Thread, which I will be reviewing in this week's Flyer. But dig down in the schedule and you'll find some remarkable gems.
  • Wilderness
Indie Memphis' newly expanded weekly film series presents two encore screenings from the festival. The first, screening on Tuesday at Studio On The Square, is The Price, a drama about a Nigerian immigrant who scores a job on Wall Street that turns out to be a mixed blessing.

The second is Wilderness, a love story about racism, jealousy, and jazz, directed by frequent Indie Memphis juror Justin Doherty. 

Wilderness 'Official Trailer' from Baracoa Pictures on Vimeo.

Then, at 1 PM on Sunday at the Paradiso, Exhibitions on Screen presents David Hockney At The Royal Academy Of Arts, a documentary following the renown British artist as he prepares for two blockbuster art exhibitions in London.

See you at the movies!

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Music Video Monday: Preston Shannon

Posted By on Mon, Jan 22, 2018 at 10:59 AM

Today, Memphis mourns one of our musical fathers.
Preston Shannon
  • Preston Shannon
For many, if not most, people who visit Memphis, Beale Street defines their experience of our music. For the last three decades, bluesman Preston Shannon has been the face they saw. Shannon's voice could be silky smooth or sandpaper rough. His guitar stylings were 100% Memphis, with a clear, piercing tone and a stunning level of technical virtuosity. He released six albums over the course of his career, but his true claim to fame was his tireless live act. Night after night, Shannon played before millions of people, one packed Beale Street club at a time. He passed away this weekend after a bout with cancer at age 70. Music Video Monday remembers this giant the best way we can, by giving you a taste of his music. Here he is, live in Memphis, three years ago, tearing it up. Rest in peace.

If you would like to see your music video on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com

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