Martin Scorsese“The Blues are the roots and everything else is the fruits” is a quote from Willie Dixon. Martin Scorsese is a man who I think would agree with that sentiment, and he made a big contribution to public understanding of the principle with his television series ‘The Blues’ some years ago. A native of New York, which is not well known as a Blues town, Martin has made many excellent music documentaries in a career that has been dominated by exceptional feature films, which have earned him a roomful of Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, BAFTAs, Palmes d’Or and Golden Globes, as well as seeing him awarded the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic!


Martin Charles Scorsese was born in Queens, New York City in 1942 to parents of Sicilian descent, and brought up in Little Italy. Early health problems meant that young Marty was found more often in the movie theatre than on the basketball court, and after school and an English degree at NYU, he enrolled in their School of the Arts to study film. After some ‘shorts’, his first feature film in 1967 had fellow student Harvey Keitel in the cast and they went on to work together many times. In 1969, Marty worked on editing the documentary film ‘Woodstock’ and is said to have been a cameraman on ‘Gimme Shelter’, the Maysles Brothers’ film of The Stones ill-fated Altamont concert in the same year. In the 70s, he was quickly recognised as one of the rising generation of film makers along with Coppola, De Palma, Spielberg and Lucas, making his name (and Robert DeNiro’s) with ‘Mean Streets’, ‘Taxi Driver’ and then directing the musical ‘New York, New York’. His next project was ‘The Last Waltz’, a film of The Band’s farewell concert in November 1976, with guests Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Dr. John, Paul Butterfield, the Staples Singers, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and a host of others, and his inspired camera-work enhances the experience even above the brilliance of the show.

A long series of big films followed, including Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Goodfellas, Cape Fear and Gangs of New York, and Marty won all the Awards the film industry has to offer. He also found time to direct the video for Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’, but a much bigger contribution to music came after the turn of the century with the epic TV documentary ‘The Blues’. Marty supervised a seven-part documentary series of films by directors like Wim Wenders, Mike Figgis and Clint Eastwood. Marty’s own directorial contribution was his adaptation of Peter Guralnick‘s ‘Feel Like Going Home’, and the films looked at themes like African retentions, Piano Blues, the African-American experience of urbanisation and more contemporary forms like hip-hop. In Marty’s own words, he was looking at “the music behind our music”. He went on to direct the documentary about Dylan’s early career ‘No Direction Home’, and his most recent music project was ‘Living in the Material World’ about the life of ex-Beatle George Harrison.

In mainstream cinema, Marty continues to achieve the twin goals of critical acclaim and box-office success, and among many future plans are a bio-pic of Sinatra and a TV series on the History of Rock.