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Satan & Adam

MAD | Music Mondays

A footnote in musical history perhaps, but this true tale of what happened one day in 1986 when white, Jewish harmonica player Adam Gussow asked to play along with the African American blues busker who called himself Mr Satan is a remarkable and touching story leading from the streets of Harlem to an encounter with U2, several records and years of intense, sometimes impossible but often inspiring touring.

As a guitar player for James Brown, Etta James, Marvin Gaye, Bo Diddley and others, Sterling Magee had experienced the music industry’s exploitation of black musicians firsthand. So he walked away to play on the streets for "his people." Reborn as Mr. Satan, he spread his gospel and became a NY City legend. When Adam Gussow asked to play with him, their lives took a powerful turn. Adam cast aside an ivory tower life, and Sterling’s embrace of his apprentice forged a sound that thrust him back in the spotlight due to a chance encounter with rock icons U2. Even then, there were plenty of twists in store for a partnership that was forged in music but sometimes foundered on differences in age, personality, race and expectation. All told, filmmaker Scott Balcerek worked on this project for more than 23 years, a span which gives full play to the scope and impact of this blues pairing.

"The blues seep into every scene of Satan & Adam, a gritty yet lovely documentary. And even after the songs stop, the music’s bittersweet emotions linger." Ken Jaworowski, New York Times

"Fascinating… Even as the film captivates, it sparks instant theorizing as to who will play the lead roles in the inevitable Hollywood feel-good dramatization. I’m thinking Ryan Gosling and Samuel L. Jackson." Fred Scheck, Hollywood Reporter

"Truly soul-stirring… A moving testament to the boundary-shattering language of music." Michael Rechtshaffen, LA Times


Director V. Scott Balcerek
Country of Origin: USA
Year: 2018
Running Time: 80 mins
Format: DCP
Classification: 19+
Related Links: Website & Trailer
Cast: Sterling Magee, Adam Gussow, The Edge, Al Sharpton, Harry Shearer

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