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7 music documentaries that will leave you feeling moved, uplifted and inspired

Good music documentaries are never just about music - they're about the stories behind the music, whether it's the people, their lives or the context of songs. Done well, they have the capacity to galvanize and stimulate minds as much the music they discuss. Don't believe us? Try these seven for size...

1. Imagine: The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson

This is one of the greatest films ever made about a musician. Director Julien Temple had previous experience with Wilko Johnson (he made the equally impressive Oil City Confidential in 2009 about Wilko's former group, Dr Feelgood) and he picks up the story here at what he assumes is the beginning of the end of Wilko's life - as he's diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. In Wilko, we have a commentator on life and death who is enlightened, making for a film that's both profound and deeply affecting.

2. Soul Music: Strange Music

Strange Fruit, the much-covered song first made famous by Billie Holiday in 1939, condemns racism and lynching in the American South and, over time, has become recognised as one of the greatest American songs ever written. This engrossing, difficult Radio 4 documentary - part of their Soul Music series - goes beyond discussing the song's origins; it hears the stories of people whose relatives were victims of lynchings and explains how the song still speaks of the need for compassion.

3. Arena: Into the Limelight - Tribute Bands

You don't need to find an angle with a film about tribute bands - best to just let the groups speak and perform, and extraordinary stories and passions will reveal themselves. This one-hour Arena film from 2007 is played straight and it's enormously touching. It's not about being a good mimic; it's about real life getting in the way of dreams, the suspension of disbelief, grafting hard and - as one member of Pink Fraud (arf) recognises - a "provincial" way of life. The action takes place in the Limelight Club in Crewe.

4. Annie Nightingale: 50 Years in Music

"Don’t wish! Do something!" Annie Nightingale told BBC Music in July, and there are many other inspiring pearls contained within this Grimmy-presented Radio 1 and Radio 1Xtra Story. Record-breaker Annie (first female Radio 1 presenter, longest-serving Radio 1 presenter, longest career as a female radio presenter anywhere) is celebrating 50 years in broadcasting this year and here recounts 10 of her most adventurous career moments.

5. Charli XCX: The F-Word and Me

In which Britain's best new(ish) female popstar uses her unrivalled access to other new(ish) female popstars - Marina and the Diamonds, Ryn Weaver, Nicki Minaj - to ask what it is to be a woman in the 2015 music industry and what feminism means. Filming took place over a number of months while Charli XCX was touring, allowing her to canvas a vast number of opinions and draw some pretty devastating conclusions. There's much we learn from Charli's first-hand experience.

6. Witness: The Plastic People of the Universe

Here's an intro you may not have expected to hear on the World Service recently: "Today, Alan Dean takes us back to Czechoslovakia in the 1970s when an underground psychedelic rock group called The Plastic People of the Universe played an unexpected role in the resistance to communist rule." What follows is a fabulous, exhilarating tale of music's capacity to influence change, and it's just one of many powerful World Service programmes broadcast during their excellent music month in September.

7. Arena: Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus

Arena's acclaimed 2004 feature about a road trip into the heart of the American South is the kind of film you sink into, like a Bayou swamp. Hosted by singer-songwriter Jim White, it feels loose, but is actually meticulously structured, and although it doesn't intitially appear to be about anything concrete, it picks away at very grand themes - identity, place, religion, class, society. Plus it's stuffed full of wonderful musical performances from the likes of The Handsome Family and Lee Sexton.

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