Passings: Academy Award Winning Director Jonathan Demme, Worked With Talking Heads, Neil Young (1944 - 2017)

by VVN Music

When most people think of director Jonathan Demme, it's about movies like Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia and Swing Shift but, here at VVN Music, our memories run more towards Stop Making Sense and four documentaries with Neil Young.

Demme died earlier today (April 26) from esophageal cancer and complications of heart disease at the age of 73.

The director first broke into films working on exploitation classics for Roger Corman such as Caged Heat and Crazy Mama but critics really started to take notice in 1980 when he directed Melvin and Howard about the relationship between service station owner Melvin Dummar and the reclusive Howard Hughes. The National Society of Film Critics named it the Best Film of 1980 and Mary Steenburgen won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

From that point, Demme put out a series of critically acclaimed films including Swing Shift (1984), Something Wild (1986) the Spalding Gray performance film Swimming to Cambodia (1987), Married to the Mob (1988) and his two biggest triumphs, The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Philadelphia (1993).

Like fellow director Martin Scorsese, Demme had a keen interest in music and, over his career, made a number of classic documentaries along with directing music videos. Of course, the best known would be the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense (1984), considered by some to be the greatest music documentary ever made. He also made a series of films with Neil Young, The Complex Sessions (1994), Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006), Neil Young Trunk Show (2009) and Neil Young Journeys (2012).

Other full length music films included Storefront Hitchcock (1998) on Robyn Hitchcock, Enzo Avitabile Music Life (2012) on saxophonist Enzo Avitabile, and his final full length film, Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids (2016) which debuted on Netflix last year.

Among his music videos were The First Kiss by New Order, Away by the Feelies and Murder Incorporated by Bruce Springsteen.


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