Manson: Music From An Unsound Mind (2019) – Summary, Review

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Manson: Music From An Unsound Mind is a new documentary that follows Charles Manson as he pursues his dream of fame in the music industry, which turns into a nightmare when his dreams don’t come true.


Director(s) Tom O’Dell
Written By Tom O’Dell
Date Released 8/13/2019
Genre(s) Documentary
Good, If You Like
  • Documentaries
  • ‘60’s Counter-Culture
  • Music of the ’60s
  • Infamous Cults and Cult Leaders
Noted Cast
Himself Simon Wells
Himself Anthony Decurtis
Himself Jeff Guinn
Himself Thomas Arnold
Herself Dianne Lake
Himself Phil Kaufman

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Manson: Music From An Unsound Mind  Summary

Under the background of the counter-culture movement of the late 1960’s, career criminal and aspiring singer-songwriter, Charles Manson, heads to northern, then southern California, seeking an opportunity to break into the music business, where he meets influential people in the industry, but finds out that his dreams of fame are not as easy to achieve as he thinks.  The resulting disappointments and frustrations, along with his growing delusions of grandeur, eventually lead him and his followers, “The Family,” in a downward spiral, resulting in their convictions for the Tate-LaBianca Murders.

Highlights

I found that the interviews were very insightful, including with people who knew Manson personally, such as one of his “Family” members, Dianne Lake, who was just 14 when she fell under Manson’s spell. She, thankfully, left before the murders took place, and her take on what it was like to live in “The Family,” and what events motivated Manson to want to get revenge was captivating.

The film also includes music and cultural experts, such as Anthony DeCurtis and David Felton, both of Rolling Stone Magazine, who explain the counter-culture movement and music scene of the mid-late ’60s and Manson’s place in it.  Like so many during that era, Manson, who had aspired to be a pimp, heard the Beatles on the radio while he was incarcerated, and decided that music would be a better avenue of potential success for him.  Of the industry people he came in contact with, I knew of Manson’s relationship with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, and I wondered how he dealt with having been the, as I see it, seed that germinated because of Wilson’s encouragement of Manson’s creativity.  With the murders, the aftermath of this association led him to not speak of his relationship with Manson and contributed to the alcoholism and drug abuse which led to a decline in his mental, emotional, and physical health; resulting in his death from an accidental drowning at age 39 in 1983.

To me, Manson seemed a nervous-sounding aspiring singer-songwriter, given to giggles, from listening to the archival recordings he did at the famous Gold Star Recording Studios in 1967.  Manson was charismatic in person and seemed to have some nice songs, but with the few other recordings he made, that charisma didn’t come through, and he was also very difficult and wouldn’t take direction.  One can only wonder if producer Terry Melcher, the son of the late actress and singer Doris Day, and Manson’s last hope for his music aspirations, had worked with him to try and develop his “talent” what would have, or would not, have happened? For if he did help Manson get a record deal with Columbia records, versus avoiding him, would there have ever been the horrible murders that took place in August of 1969—of which this year is the 50th anniversary?

Overall:  Positive (Worth Seeing)Recommended

It was interesting to learn about Manson’s childhood, where his exposure to music at a young age was the only good thing that happened to him, and how he couldn’t shake off his criminal background and manipulating personality. A combination which contributed to his frustrating efforts to achieve his musical ambitions and because of those failures, he became the cult leader and monster that history will always remember him for.


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