In Search of Blind Joe Death: The Saga of John Fahey

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In Search of Blind Joe Death: The Saga of John Fahey
Directed byJames Cullingham
Produced byJames Cullingham
Edited byCaroline Christie, Jessica Anne Cullingham
Release date
  • October 2012 (2012-10)

In Search of Blind Joe Death: The Saga of John Fahey is a 57-minute documentary released in 2013 that focuses on the life of the musician John Fahey, who is considered the father of American primitive guitar.[1]

The documentary was filmed and based in Washington D.C. where Fahey was born, the Mississippi Delta, where Fahey met and recorded with many musicians, and Salem, Oregon; where Fahey resided in during the last 20 years of his life. The documentary includes a series of video clips of Fahey’s performances, interviews with those who were involved with the musician in his personal and professional life up until his death in 2001.[2]

The film gives viewers an understanding of what Fahey’s personal world was like, and how he worked as a musician through animation, interviews, video clips and documentations of Fahey.[3]



Music critic Richie Unterberger called the film "well done" and respectful, but noted the film "could have been more comprehensive."[4] Writing for The Quietus, Sean Kitching praised the film as a "wonderful, expressionist documentary [that] admirably portrays the many facets of the man behind the music and the myth."[3] Conversely, Jake Cole, writing for Spectrum Culture, summarized the film as "never [rising] above the mark of a mildly adventurous TV special, and its stylistic cleverness cannot disguise that this is, at heart, not far off from a cursory overview" and claimed "there is a gap here that makes Cullingham’s inventive and atypical approach to artist biography feel incorporeal. It avoids the pitfall of over-explaining an artist with a dull information-dump, but it nevertheless fails to fully join its impressionistic melding of image with Fahey’s music to any deeper revelations, which results in a play of signs without a signifier."[5]


  1. ^ Miller, Dale (January–February 1992). "Reinventing the Steel". John Fahey. Acoustic Guitar.
  2. ^ Mark Jenkins (October 24, 2013). "'In Search of Blind Joe Death': Documentary spotlights legendary area guitarist John Fahey". Washington Post.
  3. ^ a b Kitching, Sean (February 21, 2013). "Fahey's A Jolly Good Fellow: In Search of Blind Joe Death Reviewed".
  4. ^ Unterberger, Richie (July 10, 2014). "John Fahey Documentary Review".
  5. ^ Cole, Jake (August 20, 2013). "In Search of Blind Joe Death: The Saga of John Fahey".

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