Today in history… July 17, 1967, John William Coltrane died from liver cancer at Huntington Hospital in Long Island, NY.
He was just 40 years young.
Since his death, my research tells me that there hasn’t been what I’d call a "high-profile," definitive film (whether scripted or documentary) on Coltrane’s life, or even just some aspect of, or period within it. And I think that’s quite sad! His music is universally known and loved, but apparently just not enough to inspire those with the financial resources to tell his life story (or some specific story within those 40 years) in a feature film.
Meanwhile, there’s a rush to make films about those who weren’t even born when he died, and on whose music Coltrane’s was of some influence and inspiration, whether directly or indirectly.
Don Cheadle is finally getting to make his Miles Davis film, after years of financing struggles. It’s just amazing to me that films about legends like these 2 (Coltrane and Davis) are practically non-existent, and seemingly face immense challenges stalling their realization.
Long-time Spike Lee editor (as well as director and producer in his own right) Sam Pollard, has been working on a John Coltrane documentary for a couple of years now (we first learned about it in the fall of 2012), currently titled "A Love Supreme: A Portrait of John Coltrane in 4 Parts," which is said to be based on the critically-acclaimed book "A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album" by music journalist Ashley Kahn.
Details say that "A Love Supreme: A Portrait of John Coltrane in 4 Parts" will be structured in the same way as Coltrane’s influential 1964 album of the same name. The album is divided into four parts: "Acknowledgement," "Resolution," "Pursuance," and "Psalm." It will feature interviews with Coltrane’s band-mates and friends, as well as historians and music journalists, artists, and people of faith who were inspired by the album.
Also, and interestingly, Pollard has said that he plans to use animation to help tell Coltrane’s story, and I’m very curious as to how he plans to implement/incorporate.
There certainly have been other docs on Coltrane, like the hour-long 1990 documentary "The World According To John Coltrane." But Pollard’s sounds wholly original in its style and structure, and I’ve been looking forward to it since I first learned about it almost 2 years ago.
No word on when it can be expected, although I’d assume we’re about a year, or less, away from a premiere. Maybe Sundance 2015, where Pollard’s last feature documentary, "Slavery by Another Name," premiered 2 years ago.
In the meantime, below, watch the hour-long 1990 documentary "The World According To John Coltrane," which was made in cooperation with Coltrane’s then widow Alice Coltrane. And feel free to list your favorite John Coltrane moments/tracks in the comments section below.