Les Blank, the documentarian who made acclaimed films about blues, jazz, and other forms of American music, died yesterday at his home in California, according to reports in Billboard. He was 77 years old.
Blank originally intended to make regular feature films after seeing The Seventh Seal while studying at Tulane University in New Orleans. However, the success of his 1965 documentary Dizzy Gillespie changed everything. The documentary revealed Blank’s knowledge and reverence of music as well as a knack for crafting intimate portrayals of some of music’s biggest names. His later films followed the life of Lightnin’ Hopkins (The World According to Lightning Hopkins), cajun music (I Went To The Dance), Ry Cooder (Ry Cooder and the Moula Banda Rhythm Aces), and Huey Lewis (Huey Lewis & The News: Be-Fore!)
Blank is survived by his sons Harrod and Beau, his daughter Ferris Robinson, and three grandchildren.