Director Lily Keber’s portrait, premiered at SXSW this year, traces Booker’s early life as a chart-topping piano prodigy to the end, where he often performed onstage in his underwear, dishing out drug-fueled conspiracies.
Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Little Richard, and more counted Booker as a member of their bands and testimonials from contemporaries Dr. John, Allen Toussaint and even Harry Connick Jr. will convince you, if the extended archival footage of Booker playing like a “goddamned Black Liberace” doesn’t grab you first.
A striking presence, wearing an eye-patch and boasting a personality that could win over any crowd, it was the talent in James Booker's fingers that left audiences talking once he was finished on stage, yet his tumultuous life has never received proper attention — until now: "BAYOU MAHARAJAH: THE TRAGIC GENIUS OF JAMES BOOKER" is an earnest attempt to offer contemporary audiences an appreciation and knowledge of a New Orleans institution, a prized musician among musicians, an eccentric troublemaker, and tortured genius who could never quite keep it together long enough to sustain a career.
Photo Credit: Anton Corbijn
Synopsis written by: Doug Bond