What happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears, judging by this spurious, somewhat cranky documentary by John Scheinfeld, is that the band faced the unforeseen consequences of its own bad decisions.
In 1970, Blood, Sweat & Tears, the enormously popular nine-piece jazz-rock group, undertook a tour of Yugoslavia, Romania and Poland under the aegis of the U.S. State Department, inadvertently outraging the progressive, college-age fans whose enthusiasm had made the group such a stratospheric counterculture success. To make matters worse, upon their return, the members of the band — who had headlined Woodstock and spoken out against the war in Vietnam — now decried communism as “scary,” professing gratitude for freedoms they’d previously taken for granted — quite the about-face. As David Felton wrote acidly in a 1970 issue of Rolling Stone, it sure sounded like “the State Department got its money’s worth.”
The backlash was swift and, the documentary argues, effectively career-ending. “I felt canceled,” Steve Katz, the band’s guitarist, confesses dolefully, and indeed the movie is a pharisaical effort to paint the musicians as victims of what we now call cancel culture: misunderstood, unreasonably maligned and never afforded a chance to explain themselves, until now. But like many laments of the self-identified canceled, what’s being complained about is really just a form of accountability — of having to stand by and answer for actions they evidently didn’t think much about. (“We were just musicians, man,” is the lead singer David Clayton-Thomas’s lame justification.) The film frames them as having been somehow embroiled in a political situation, rather than actively, knowingly engaged in it — and its attempts to remain apolitical and focus on the music are as naïve as the band’s.
What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears?
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 52 minutes. In theaters.
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