The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack

Film, Documentaries
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His obituaries will explain that Jack Elliott was the missing link between his mentor Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, but this poignant film by his daughter reveals a much more complex man. A Jewish doctor's boy from Brooklyn, Elliott was a cowboy in his head, and ran off to join the rodeo at fifteen. His parents circulated Missing posters advising 'Probable destination: ranch,' while the cowboys told him 'It ain't where you're from, but where you're going which counts'. He took up the guitar and started flatpicking, but it wasn't until he came across Guthrie that he really found himself. This rootless roots musician could have been one of the greats, but as pretty much every witness (Arlo Guthrie, Kristofferson, Pete Seeger) and his four wives can testify, Ramblin' Jack was always too irresponsible to build a career. He approached gigs sideways, tuning and talking as much as singing - they don't call him 'ramblin' for his travellin''. Much as he talks though, it seems he never had a heart to heart with Aiyana, a hole which fills a mite too much of this sad but loving portrait of a self-made authentic.

By: TCh

Release details

Duration: 112 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Aiyana Elliott
Screenwriter: Rick Dahl, Aiyana Elliott
Cast: Jack Elliott
Arlo Guthrie
Kris Kristofferson
Alan Lomax
DA Pennebaker
Pete Seeger
June Shelley
Dave Van Ronk