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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 Hancockonly 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

Friday Harbor Harbor Film Festival wishes to thank Lorne Paulson Construction for sponsoring this film.

  • Year
  • Runtime
    96 minutes
  • Language
  • Country
    United States
  • Director
    Mary Wharton
  • Screenwriter
    Bill Flanagan
  • Producer
    Chris Farrell, Dave Kirkpatrick
  • Executive Producer
    Dan Braun, Mary Wharton, David Crawford, Peter Conlon
  • Cinematographer
    James Fideler
  • Editor
    Mari Keiko Gonzalez
  • Composer
    Bill Wharton, Bradley Cole Smith