TV One’s “Unsung” is one of my favorite biography shows on television. Each show takes us into the lives of musical artists and acts through narration, interviews, performance footage and photos. Television doesn’t get more basic than that. Yet, Unsung has managed to focus an interesting light on singers, groups and bands that have made important contributions to the music industry.
Fittingly, Al B Sure was the voice over talent for the first season. He did surprisingly well. The new, lesser known narrator is just as good and doesn’t get in the way of the story telling.
Many of the episodes have provided fodder for water cooler conversations in the African American community. When the Debarge story aired from the first season, even national radio hosts like Tom Joyner talked about it. We all know the Debarge music and something about the drug abuse in the family. But how many of us know about the abusive father or El Debarge’s efforts to make the group a success while the rest of his siblings were out partying?
For me, the most touching episode was the one about Donny Hathaway. He has one of the purest voices of all time. But his struggles with depression ultimately drove away his family and claimed his life. To hear industry experts explain the depth of his genius made me appreciate his music even more. Listening to family and friends talk about his declining mental health was hard to watch. It is amazing to think about how little was known about depression at the time.
The Heatwave story was the most insightful. I knew nothing about this group yet love some of their classic hits like “Always and Forever” and “Grooveline.” This particular episode shed light on the groups international players, their unusually strict code of ethics and the success of keyboardist and writer Rod Temperton who went on to produce some of Michael Jackson’s biggest hits.
Other profiles have included Tammy Terrell, Tenna Marie, The Fat Boys, Miki Howard and the O’Jays. The upcoming season promises the likes of The Spinners, Big Daddy Kane and Evelyn “Champagne” King. Many of the “Unsung” artists have never been profiled on television. But when I see them, I am moved to get up and dance or go running to download my favorite songs.
I’m looking forward the batch of shows. My DVR is already set. “Unsung” gives me the information I want without all of the flash and whistles. But most of all, it gives me a deeper understanding and appreciation for the music that has become the soundtrack of my life.
For more reviews, visit the Docmentary and TV Reviews category.