Virtual Cinema | New Documentary on Mysterious Convict Musician Ike White February 6, 2021
Music documentaries can be a rather tedious and formulaic affair. The general template for these films usually mirrors a rags-to-riches arc with a celebratory denouement of the artist being profiled. Thankfully, director Daniel Vernon takes a nonconventional approach in his film The Changin’ Times of Ike White.
The result is a compelling new documentary that takes the viewer on a mind-altering journey into the fascinating life of psychedelic funster Ike White. Imagine an artist with the stylings of Stevie Wonder, the artistry of Shuggie Otis, the charisma of Sly Stone, and the wackiness of Tiny Tim—there you have Ike White.
Strikingly handsome with a magnetic personality, White—a musical prodigy—was serving a life sentence for murder in a California prison when record producer Jerry Goldsmith, who worked with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, War, and Sly Stone, discovered the musical enigma and recorded an album.
Poised for Stardom
Armed with a new attorney and celebrity advocate Stevie Wonder, White was eventually granted an early release. Seemingly poised for superstardom, White unexpectedly vanished from the public eye for more than 40 years. Part of what makes The Changin’ Times of Ike White fascinating is learning about the collateral damage White caused during his self-imposed exile.
A Cautionary Tale
The film at times plays as a cautionary tale around rock ’n’ roll excess, with vestiges of redemption. Highlights include candid, sometimes painful interviews with White, as well as his brilliant music, which has been sampled by the likes of Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg. The Changin’ Times of Ike White is delightful and mystifying with no emotional stone left unturned, making it a worthy addition to the music documentary landscape.
About the Author
Raymond Gayle, director of Electric Purgatory: The Fate of the Black Rocker, teaches film and broadcast journalism at Lamar High School in Houston.
Underwriting for the Film Department is provided by Tenaris and the Vaughn Foundation. Generous funding is provided by Nina and Michael Zilkha; The Consulate General of the Republic of Korea; Franci Neely; Carrin Patman and Jim Derrick; Lois Chiles Foundation; ILEX Foundation; L’Alliance Française de Houston; and The Foundation for Independent Media Arts.