A rock ‘n’ roll legacy told in rock doc Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me

by Mark Burger

For a time in the early 1970s, the rock group Big Star appeared to be on the verge of super-stardom. Formed in Memphis, Big Star’s first album (#1 Record) received rapturous reviews nationwide, yet its trajectory was unaccountably thwarted by poor distribution and the eventual bankruptcy of Stax Records, for which the band recorded under the aegis of Ardent Records. Big Star’s talent was undeniable, but its bad luck was equally undeniable.

The rise, fall and resurrection of Big Star is the subject of writer/director Drew DiNicola’s persuasive documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me. For those familiar with Big Star, the film condenses the band’s turbulent history in absorbing fashion. For the unititiated, it’s a thorough introduction.

Featuring interviews with journalists, friends, family members and those rockers whom Big Star inspired over the years (an all-star line-up that includes REM, Teenage Fan Club, the Replacements, Velvet Crush, Meat Puppets and Matthew Sweet), Big Star also brings to light the history of Ardent Records and, indeed, of the Memphis scene in the 1970s and ’80s. There’s even a detour into Winston-Salem along the way.

The film follows the various directions that the original band members (Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens, Andy Hummel and Germantown’s own Chris Bell) went in the ensuing years. The external difficulties the band faced caused internal discord and eventual break-up. Along the way, there were also inevitable casualties — all too common in the realm of rock music.

Yet, as hokey as it may sound, the music of Big Star lives on, beyond even the lives of those who created it. With this film, that legacy is celebrated in entertaining, enjoyable fashion. As the saying goes: “Rock ‘n’ roll will never die.”

Neither, it seems, will Big Star. Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me is scheduled to open Friday in Greensboro

LOG ONTO — click on the “Flicks” section. Then go to “What’s Showing”