Born as Kenny Gorelick, to a Seattle middle-class Jewish family, he was expected to take over his father’s plumbing business. However, unexpected musical encouragement from his high school band teacher, James Gardiner, and a little inspiration by Grover Washington Jr., launched his career with legendary producer Clive Davis.
Lane interviews jazz critics, academics, and DJs for their takes on Kenny G. For some critics, Kenny G represents a means to discuss how Black musicians had their work appropriated by white performers. Yet, insights a conversational contrasts between the haters and admirers who cherish his music as the soundtrack to their lives.
“I don’t think I’m a personality to people,” says Kenny G. “I think I’m a sound.” He’s well aware of the jokes at his expense, but he retains a naiveté that makes for a fascinating character study. This documentary isn’t only about Kenny G. It’s also about you as a listener.
What is most fascinating is the discussion of his struggle with record labels who simply had no formula for instrumentalists or how the label had him break dancing in videos and how his album covers were devoid of his image. I knew this would go down with Black artists and album covers, but was shocked to find out the reverse was true…especially with a jazz musician. In a surprise twist, discovered he’s successful golfer, played for one of Kim and Kanye’s V-day celebrations or that he literally only possesses only one Grammy award.
Listening to Kenny G in hella entertaining and eye-opening to say the least. Penny Lane did her thing by bringing haters and lovers of one squiggly haired musician together if only for a moment as it streams on HBO beginning October 9th.