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Link Wray only needed two chords to be banned from the radio and change the world of rock ‘n’ roll. Never heard that name? A new documentary, “Rumble: Indians Who Rocked the World,” is here to educate you about Wray and a plethora of other revolutionary Native- Americans — Jimi Hendrix and Jesse Edwin Davis also make the cut — who made an indelible mark on music.
The film is screening Thursday at the Communication Arts & Sciences Building as one of WKAR’s Indie Pop-Up Lens features. The series focuses on topics often left behind — in this case, the influence of indigenous sounds on modern music.
“You don’t necessarily hear about that influence,” said Julie Sochay, content and community engagement manager for WKAR.
Wray, whose slick yet striking image graces much of the documentary’s marketing, is a Shawnee descendent from North Carolina born in 1929. He electrified rock guitar with his 1958 instrumental “Rumble.” The track had a sound so powerfully evocative it was banned from radio, despite having no lyrical content. The violence the song was said to incite came solely from Wray’s ragged, raw guitar playing and, well, the title of the song — after all, greaser culture, think “The Outsiders,” was at its height.
“Rumble” was a creative ground zero for by many rock ‘n’ roll legends. Sonic titans like the Who’s Pete Townshend, who supposedly claimed he wouldn’t have picked up a guitar without hearing “Rumble,” and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page both wear their love for Wray on their sleeve.
Wray experienced a revival in interest, thanks to his songs being heard during the diner scene in “Pulp Fiction,” before his death at 76 in 2005.
Another musician of note in the documentary is Taj Mahal and Redbone guitarist Jesse Edwin Davis. Redbone is best known for its 1974 single “Come and Get Your Love,” which recently experienced a resurgence in popularity thanks to being featured on the “Guardians of the Galaxy” soundtrack and as the theme song for Netflix’s “F Is for Family.”
Redbone didn’t shy away from a Native American image, famously performing in tasseled leather jackets and feathered headbands. Davis died at age 43 in 1988.
After the film’s screening, ethnomusicology professors Chris Scales and Michael Largey will lead a discussion.
“The audience can ask questions and the panelists will talk about what they know about the film and the culture,” Sochay said. “We keep it open for our community to get together and discuss the content.”
“Rumble…” at WKAR 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 6
Free, reserve seats online WKAR at MSU 404 Wilson Road Room 212, East Lansing
www.wkar.org (517) 884-4700