When Jimmy Carter was just a kid in south Georgia, he loved gospel music so much that he didn’t need the hymn book to sing along. As it turned out, this lifelong passion for music gave him an unexpected edge as a presidential candidate: through folk, soul, jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll, Carter tapped into a force that transcended racial and generational divides, and often party lines. And after the disillusionment of the Watergate era, the musicians sensed that Carter wasn’t faking it; the likes of Bob Dylan, the Allman Brothers, and Willie Nelson even forged friendships.
Part-rockumentary, part-presidential portrait, Jimmy Carter: Rock ‘n’ Roll President combines rare archival footage with era-defining live performances: Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Buffett, Paul Simon, Dizzy Gillespie, and Herbie Hancock only scratch the surface. Mary Wharton traces how Carter’s genuine approachability became key to his political appeal, and allowed him to connect with voters who may only have known him as a small-town peanut farmer. But even more urgently, it shows us the unifying potential of a leader who believed, in a twist on Dylan’s words, that America could get busy being born, even as it seemed busy dying. — Loren Hammonds
Mary Wharton's credits include the Grammy-winning Sam Cooke: Legend and documentaries about Joan Baez, David Bowie, The Doors, Elton John, and Jimi Hendrix. Wharton’s most recent films include 2019's Farrah Fawcett Forever and Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President.