Before she died last year, the great cult actress and singer Karen Black recorded vocals for “Brighter!,” a song from Cass McCombs’s double album Big Wheel And Others. After she passed, McCombs asked Black’s widower Stephen Eckelberry to direct a video for the song. Eckelberry used a bit of footage of Black and McCombs rehearsing the song together, but most of the video consists of images from Black’s films, projected in a dark room where McCombs is playing the song on guitar. And in those clips, we see the amazing magnetic presence that Black had in some of the best movies of the ’70s. The video works as a powerful tribute to a lady who was very, very alive, until she wasn’t. Watch it, and read some words about the video from Eckelberry, below.
Cass McCombs emailed me in late November 2013 and asked if I would create a music video for Brighter! – the song he recorded with Karen in December 2012 – using classic clips from her movies. It struck me as an opportunity to explore a theme that interests me – the relationship of film and memory. We watch a movie and the images from that movie become part of our memory stream.
My own memories of Karen are intertwined with memories of her in films – it gets messier for me since I directed several movies she was in – which memory is stronger; Karen during the making the film or what ended up on screen? An image came to me: Cass himself becoming a screen for the projection of images of Karen – as if his memories of her were playing themselves out over his body.
I found a clip I had shot with my iPhone when Cass was over at our house rehearsing the song with Karen, and I combined that with clips of her movies, some iconic, some more obscure, and I weaved in footage of fire, sparkes, burning… The song does seem to deal with hell, or is it the hell of fame?
Big Wheel And Others is out now on Domino.