This review is republished from Nick Bruno’s blog, The Rain Falls Down on Portlandtown.
Born Jerome Felder, Doc Pomus was an extraordinary figure when he first hit the music scene, a white, Jewish blues singer paralyzed by polio as a child. The fact that his music was exceptional only added to the befuddlement of audiences and record executives. The new documentary AKA Doc Pomus delves into both the striking figure he was as a performer as well as the absolute phenom that he later became as a songwriter in the Brill Building scene of the early rock and roll era, penning such classics as “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “This Magic Moment,” “Little Sister,” “A Teenager in Love,” and countless more hits.
Drawing from a wealth of interviews ranging from conversations with his ex-wives and son to the many musicians whose paths intersected with Pomus (Ben E. King, Lou Reed, Shawn Colvin, B.B. King, Dion, etc.), the documentary paints Pomus as a sometimes tortured genius who was blessed with extended periods of reprieve from his sorrows while effortlessly drawing from them for lyrical inspiration. The endless soundtrack of hits speaks far more loudly than any of the interviews could about this man, responsible for so many of the songs that defined the times in which he lived.
If there’s a fault to find, it’s in the repetitive nature of the interviews as the discussion shifts to the end of Doc’s life, something that commonly occurs in these kinds of biographical documentaries (see the otherwise fantastic Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)? for another example of such missteps). Overall, AKA Doc Pomus is a treat for fans of both his songs and the particular era of rock and roll in which he wrote them.
AKA Doc Pomus screens at the NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) as a part of the Reel Music Festival series on Friday , October 12th at 7pm. More info available here.