Review: ‘Music Is My Life, Politics My Mistress: The Story Of Oscar Brown Jr.’

Judicious pruning would enhance "Music Is My Life, Politics My Mistress: The Story of Oscar Brown Jr.," an obvious labor of love by helmer Donnie L. Betts. Heartfelt but sprawling tribute to the versatile entertainer and political activist is a tad too stuffed with minutiae of interest only to the most dedicated fans.

Judicious pruning would enhance “Music Is My Life, Politics My Mistress: The Story of Oscar Brown Jr.,” an obvious labor of love by helmer Donnie L. Betts. Heartfelt but sprawling tribute to the versatile entertainer and political activist is a tad too stuffed with minutiae of interest only to the most dedicated fans. Already well-traveled on the fest circuit, pic may find simpatico auds in noncommercial venues and homevideo markets before pubcast airdates.

The product of one of Chicago’s most respected African-American families, Oscar Brown Jr. (1926-2005) amassed a wide array of showbiz credits as singer, poet, jazz artist and radio and TV host during a career spanning six decades. Docu spends considerable time detailing the fascinating history of “Kicks & Company,” a nearly-legendary ’60s musical that Brown first previewed during an unprecedented two-hour showcase on NBC’s “Today” show. Brown’s sassy high spirits are conveyed vividly during snippets of his live concert performances. His jazz-underscored, seriocomic poetry riffs — which often sound like influential forerunners of rap and hip-hop — should motivate many viewers to dip into the catalog of Brown’s recordings.

Music Is My Life, Politics My Mistress: The Story Of Oscar Brown Jr.

Production

A No Credits Prods. production. Produced by Donnie L. Betts, Mark Alston, Tarek Chacra. Directed by Donnie L. Betts.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Mark Alston, Charles Gary; editor, Dave Wruck; music, Ron Miles. Reviewed at Nashville Film Festival (Music Films in Music City), April 24, 2006. (Also in SXSW Film Festival.) Running time: 110 MIN.
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