Today is Gene Vincent’s birthday. And while the film I’m sharing to commemorate this date is hardly an uplifter, it is a touching testament to Gene Vincent’s devotion to his art and fans.
In 1957 Gene Vincent’s Be-Bop-A-Lula had sold two million copies and he was an International star. But his meteoric rise was followed by tragedy and tough times in the 1960s. While he continued to record and tour with some success, particularly in England, by the mid-60s his music career was as battered as his body.
Gene Vincent: The Rock And Roll Singer documents Vincent’s British tour of 1969. Working with a pickup band and playing dingy clubs and small halls at “the rough end of the music biz,” the film follows Vincent and his loyal crew as they struggle to make enough money to get from gig to gig. There’s a sad beauty in the whole mess.
In addition to the financial problems of the tour, Vincent was suffering debilitating pain from a 1955 motorcycle accident and the taxi cab collision that killed his fellow passenger and friend Eddie Cochran in 1960. As we watch Vincent perform in front of his adoring fans, you can practically feel his exhaustion and see the hurt behind his determined smile.
Less than two years after this documentary was filmed, Vincent was dead of a burst ulcer. He was only 36 years old.
Sweet Gene Vincent.