Review: ‘Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World’

An enlightening documentary about Native Americans’ role in the evolution of contemporary music

The distortion of Link Wray’s guitar hit the American air waves in 1958 with “Rumble.” The song was one of the first tunes to use power chords, a technique that had yet to be explored by the rock and roll scene. In the summer of that year, “Rumble” became an instant success. It rose to number sixteen on the charts, despite being banned in several US radio markets under the claim the noisy, distorted sound glorified juvenile delinquency. Link Wray’s innovative use of the electric guitar ended up influencing a generation of guitarists.The distortion of Link Wray’s guitar hit the American air waves in 1958 with “Rumble.” The song was one of the first tunes to use power chords, a technique that had yet to be explored by the rock and roll scene. In the summer of that year, “Rumble” became an instant success. It rose to number sixteen on the charts, despite being banned in several US radio markets under the claim the noisy, distorted sound glorified juvenile delinquency. Link Wray’s innovative use of the electric guitar ended up influencing a generation of guitarists.

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World is an enlightening documentary about Native Americans’ role in the evolution of contemporary music. It tells the story of contributions made by Native American musicians to the rise of blues, rock and roll, and pop music. These musicians include Mildred Bailey, Jesse Ed Davis, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Randy Castillo, and, of course, Link Wray. Directed by Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana, this movie presents an overlooked chapter in music history.

From the father of delta blues, Charley Patton, to one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th Century, Jimi Hendrix, this documentary provides a list of influential artists whose Native American backgrounds often lacked the due consideration by their fans and the media. For example, during  Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix wore headbands and other Native American-styled clothing. Jimi’s sister says he did it to honor his Cherokee grandmother. However, at that time, most fans saw his style as part of the tribal trend in hippie fashion.

The radio ban on Wray’s music, or the disregard for Jimi Hendrix’s Native American roots may not have been directly related to the blatant discrimination occurring in the Fifties and Sixties, but it sure resembles the time when the government outlawed music by Native Americans. Although this documentary covers many prohibitions that targeted Native American culture, Rumble triumphs by not victimizing Native Americans. It leaves viewers feeling inspired rather than sad, and with “Rumble” echoing in their heads. Dummm dummm duuuuummm.

Director: Catherine Bainbridge, Alfonso Maiorana

Screenplay: Catherine Bainbridge, Alfonso Maiorana

Genre: Music/Documentary

Running Time: 1h 43m

About the Author

A 25-year-old Brazilian getting lost in the Big Sky. I like movies, books, chicken wings, and unfinished stories.