Ken Burns made a documentary on Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight boxing champion.
Ken, I love your work, but I’m calling dibs on the other Jack Johnson.
The thing about Jack Johnson is, you can’t put him in a box. You can call him a free spirit, if you’re so intent on putting labels on every freaking thing, but I prefer to think of him as just a guy with a song to sing. A song and dance man. A man with a song in his heart and a gift for writing passionate lyrics about banana pancakes.
What makes white Jack Johnson as good a documentary subject as black Jack Johnson? It’s his internal contradictions. His poetry. His album of songs about Curious George. His life as a surfer, then a filmmaker, then a musician. It’s a life filled with twists and turns, trials and tribulations, all of it permeated by the intoxicating odor of those funny-smelling cigarettes.
My documentary will include details such as:
Jack Johnson’s home life in Hawai’i
Jack Johnson’s favorite flavor of shave ice
Jack Johnson’s favorite kind of music (mellow)
Jack Johnson’s favorite place to relax
Jack Johnson’s friends telling us what an awesome, chill guy Jack is
Footage of Jack Johnson surfing, playing the guitar, smoking doobies
A plea to make Jack Johnson’s childhood home into a National Historic Site
My Jack Johnson documentary would also focus on his protege, Mason Jennings. Though not as laid back as Jack, Mason is still awesome. He’s made some of my favorite albums that are not Jack Johnson albums.
So look out, Ken Burns, because I have a feeling my Jack Johnson documentary will rival your Jack Johnson documentary in terms of showing everybody a true American icon. Mine will also have color photos, which yours did not.