Rock Prophecies will be released on DVD on September 14, 2010, the same month this documentary that was the winner of Audience Awards at the AFI Dallas Film Festival, Nashville Film Festival and Maui Film Festival will be broadcast on PBS.
"Some people collect stamps, some people collect butterflies – I collect rock stars," photographer Robert Knight muses in Rock Prophecies, a documentary about how he managed, through luck, perseverance and the uncanny ability to discover talent well before the rest of the planet, to be in the right place at the right time – again and again and again. Knight has spent the past 40 years photographing some of the rock world's biggest legends in their most intimate moments. The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, B.B. King, Eric Clapton and Aerosmith have all been captured through his camera lens. However, Knight is more than just a famous rock photographer. He is someone with a genuine passion for music and musicians, which has transported him from behind his lens and into rock history.
You don't have to love music to be inspired by Knight's story. The film interweaves three distinct parts of Knight's life – Knight reflecting on his first meetings with numerous rock icons, his quest to discover the next major rock act and his moving efforts to care for his elderly, ailing mother, diagnosed with Alzheimer's while privately fretting over how he'll be able to afford the costs of her medical care - a dilemma that is indirectly threatening the ownership of his 40-year rock n' roll archive.
Knight was the first photographer to shoot Led Zeppelin in America, he shot Aerosmith before anyone had heard of them and he also captured Hendrix's final performance. He was also the only photographer to capture blues hero Stevie Ray Vaughn's final concert performance. When Vaughn died in a tragic helicopter crash the night of the show, Knight refused to cash in and sell his photos for years.
"Robert Knight is like the Forrest Gump of rock 'n roll," says Tim Kaiser, producer of ROCK PROPHECIES. "He just had this knack for being right in the middle of history in the making."
Produced by Kaiser and directed by John Chester, the film features interviews with and performances by Jeff Beck, ZZ Top, Carlos Santana, Slash, Panic at the Disco, Sick Puppies, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, and Steve Vai, among others.
"I get paid to see," Knight explains simply, and what he has seen is astonishing. Knight can trade rock 'n roll stories with the best of them, like the time Robert Plant yanked him from a packed audience during a Led Zeppelin performance in a small club so that he could shoot the band from the stage, or the time Elton John was his houseguest in Hawaii, or when he attended a Halloween party with Alice Cooper, who went as himself though no one realized it really was him!
Knight's story is much deeper than hanging out with rock stars and going to amazing parties. As Stevie Ray Vaughn boarded the helicopter that would take him to his death, he told Knight, "You'll know me when you hear me." Over the years as Knight reflected on Vaughn's final words to him, he decided to search for the next major musical talent.
When Knight meets the band Sick Puppies, whose video for the song "Free Hugs" became a global phenomenon on YouTube (with more than 80 million views and counting), he tries to assume the role of impresario, convincing the act to come to Los Angeles, where he introduces them to friends in the industry. Not long after, the band lands an American record contract.
Knight returns to YouTube in search of another act, and comes upon then-16-year-old blues prodigy Tyler Dow Bryant, a young man who discovered his simpatico at an early age (by age six, he was already impersonating Elvis Presley). Knight travels to a small Texas town to meet Bryant, whereupon he makes it his mission to help the teen reach the top.
"Knight teaches us to pay attention to those seemingly insignificant obsessions that lead an artist of any medium to legendary status," notes director Chester. ROCK PROPHECIES takes the audience deep into how rock stars are made in the music industry and shows the power a man and his camera can have on their careers, but it also looks beneath the mantle of the legendary to reveal the humanity of the stars Knight has known.
Finally, we watch as Knight is forced to make a momentous decision that could profoundly affect his ability to adequately care for his mother.