Music

Here’s the Story of the 1970s Most Forgotten Funk Star

A new documentary tracks down funk prodigy Ike White.

British producer Dan Vernon has tracked down one of the 1970s’ most compelling artists for a brand-new documentary. The film, The Changin’ Times of Ike White, debuted in America on Friday. Changin’ Times tells the story of an incarcerated musician whose talents earned him his freedom. Watch the full trailer below.

At the age of 19, White was sentenced to life in prison on murder charges. He spent the early portion of his sentence writing songs with his fellow prisoners. By some stroke of luck, he was discovered by Jerry Goldstein, a record producer and affiliate of Jimi Hendrix. His debut album Changin’ Times, recorded with Goldstein in a mobile studio on the prison grounds in 1974, eventually caught Stevie Wonder‘s attention, who hired Ike a new attorney and successfully petitioned for his release.

With the industry’s support, White went off the grid for over 40 years. British filmmaker Daniel Vernon learned the story in 2014, and quickly flew out to visit him. In the three days they spent together, Ike gave Vernon access to his archives–featuring recordings and photos telling the story of his mercurial rise.

Shortly after meeting with Vernon to discuss the documentary, White suddenly died. Vernon teamed up with White’s wife Lana to unearth the rest of the story. The film is now available on the BBC‘s iPlayer, New York’s New Plaza Cinema and Sol Cinema Cafe. Los Angeles’ Laemmle and Lumiere Cinemas are also offering online screeners.

“We weren’t sure how we would continue on with the film,” Vernon told The Guardian, but then one day Lana called me and said she had found a tape of White getting married to someone else, despite telling her he hadn’t been married before,” he says. “She was obviously shocked and wanted to know more. We decided it would be the right thing to do to continue to unearth his life story, as that was one of the last things he had asked of me.”

Torry Threadcraft

Torry Threadcraft is a writer who covers music, sports, and culture. You can find his daily ramblings and culinary takes at @dreadcraft.

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