WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS?
(director/writer: John Scheinfeld; cinematographer: Tristan Whitman; editor: Peter S. Lynch II; music: Blood, Sweat & Tears; cast: David Clayton-Thomas, Bobby Colomby, Steve Katz, Clive Davis, Donn Cambern, Fred Lipsius, Danielle Fosler-Lussier, David Wild, David Felton, Dan Klein, Tina Cunningham, Jim Fielder, Tim Naftali; Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: John Scheinfeld, Dave Harding; Abramorama; 2023)
“A compelling never-before-told story.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The musical documentary on Blood, Sweat & Tears by John Scheinfeld (“In Search of Heaven”/”Sergio Mendes in the Key of Joy”) is a curious one. It tells a strange story of the popular band, with a bright future, but suddenly because of a controversial U.S. State Department tour of the Iron Curtain countries they lost street cred on the musical scene and lost their popularity. After the tour they decried communism and further turned off their college-educated progressive counterculture audience, now viewing them as sellouts to the establishment.
In 1970 the legendary jazz-rock band, one of the first ever rock super groups, made up of many talented but unknown musicians and a good lead singer named David Clayton-Thomas, had the top album in the land and played that year at the Woodstock festival as headliners (after coming out against the Vietnam War). They were loved by the rock press and had a sizeable following in the mainstream rock crowd (selling millions of albums). But they tangled with the Nixon administration during the time of the unpopular Vietnam War, and were roped into going in 1970 on an anti-Communist tour of the Iron Curtain. They became the first rock band to perform in Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia. But by going on this Nixon arranged tour they incurred the wrath of the anti-war protesters, and as a result lost their young audience and never recovered from this blunder.
Using archival footage, the film does good by their music, telling of the naive apolitical band and the political intrigue they ran into. It offers valuable insights into their rise and fall and tells a compelling never-before-told story. The band after the tour received an immediate backlash and met with the fate we now call cancel culture. They were given no fair chance to explain themselves as apolitical musicians, and their careers went down the drain.
In their prime they produced hit numbers such as “And When I Die,” “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” and “Spinning Wheel.”
I was never a fan of their square rock music, and the film did not induce me to go back and revisit their music. But I found their story a worthwhile reminder of how polarizing America can be and how deleterious are the effects of cancer culture.
REVIEWED ON 3/30/2023 GRADE: B-