Review: Redbone: The True Story of a Native American Rock Band
As a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is undeniable just how immense a world the movies have built. I had initially not thought much of it based on the first Iron Man movie. Little did I know that was just the bedrock. The then-nascent movie studio took lessons from the company, whose source material, the movies were based on. The connections between the movies were not incidental but intentional and special effects would be supplemental and not take the front seat to good storytelling.
One of those movies was Guardians of the Galaxy which I never really compelled to read when it was initially at my local comic book store. What James Gunn did, was infuse nostalgia, comedy, and music into an otherwise D-list of superheroes. One of the songs in the first movie, which drew me and had heard more than a few times, but did not know the band, “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone, who I had no idea was one of the very first Native American rock bands. In Christian Staebler, Sonia Paoloni, and Thibault Balahy’s Redbone: the True Story of a Native American Rockband, these creators look to bring light to this marginalized part of music history.
We are taken to Los Angeles, where the Vegas brothers of Redbone are at KCLA, looking to give one lucky fan, a chance to meet the band, while Pat Vegas’s daughter , Frankie is on her way to meet her parents at the station. As far back as Frankie can remember, her family has always been musicians and it started back in 1960. We find the Vegas brothers trying to make it in the music business back in 1962, when they would catch the ear of Bumps Blackwell, who was Little Richard’s manager. They would start playing as a backing band for different TV shows, where they would meet Jim Morrison and Jimmy Hendrix. In fact, it would be Hendrix that would give them their name, and lead to the forming of the band a few years later, beyond the two brothers. They would meet their guitarist, Tony Bellamy, and Pete Depoe, their drummer, who both also was Native American. As their first name for the band was The Crazy Cajun Cakewalk Band, and a chance meeting with Larry Cohen, would give their first record deal, where they landed on the band’s eventual name, and give the record company, two back to back albums in 1970 which were hugely successful. As the band gained popularity, police brutality against Native Americans in Minnesota was at an all-time high, at which point, one out of every 3 people in jail, were Native American, who was disproportionate, when the state’s Native American population comprised only 1%, which would lead to the Occupy Alcatraz event. This lead to the band putting a song on their second album dedicated to their stand on the former prison, coupled with their successful albums, lead to a worldwide tour, where the group would even play for the Queen of England and get into all types of debauchery. This would lead to their third album, Wovoka, which was their most socially conscious and which would spawn their greatest hit, “ Come and Get Your Love”, which would become not only an America hit but a worldwide one. Eventually, their political leanings, and their forthrightness towards the issues affecting Native Americans, became too much for mainstream America, where different promoters started to “blacklist” them one by one, coupled with fledging sales, lost of a record contract, lead to the band, breaking up in 1976. The two brothers would perform their own separately, leading to Lolly even heading his own band, Thunderhand Joe and The Medicine Show, but ultimately succumbing to a stroke which sidelined him until his death. By Redbone: the True Story of a Native American Rockband’s end, this not only stories about a band but of family whose, love for music made them immortal.
Overall, Redbone: the True Story of a Native American Rockband is an excellent “day in the life” story that is more than a recalling of memories but a recollection of a legacy known worldwide. The story by Staebler and Paoloni is affecting, and relatable. The art by Balahy is breathtaking. Altogether, a story that chronicles one of the biggest groups of the 20th century and properly places in the pantheon of one of Rock’s greatest bands.
Story: Christian Staebler and Sonia Paoloni Art: Thibault Balahy
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy
IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review