Film Studies – Bill Monroe: Father of Bluegrass Music


This paper dwells upon the film which goes under the title Bill Monroe: Father of Bluegrass Music. The film features Bill Monroe and a number of famous musicians talking about bluegrass and the impact Bill Monroe had on the development of this genre of music as well as other genres. The film is biographical, but, at the same time, it can be regarded as a film about the entire epoch and genre of bluegrass music. The film is a fascinating story of a man who is a symbol for many generations.

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A Brief Summary of the Film

Early Years

The film is a kind of mosaic of a number of interviews with Bill Monroe, some parts of his performances and interviews with people talking about Bill Monroe and his music. Thus, Bill Monroe is recollecting some events from his early life. Importantly, his mother and uncle were musicians and played musical instruments. His brothers played guitars and he had almost no choice to become a renowned musician.

He chose mandolin as his instrument, which had a great impact on the development of the musical genre. It is necessary to note that Bill Monroe’s parents passed away when he was very young and he decided to live with his uncle. He used to listen to his uncle’s songs every night. His uncle played during weddings and at parties. This made Bill Monroe think of starting to play.

Bill Monroe as a Man

Notably, the film does not only focus on the musical life of the great man. Bill Monroe is depicted as a man who lives his life to the fullest. Bill Monroe says, “I’ve always liked to work” (Bill Monroe – The Father of Bluegrass Music n.p.). He is also depicted as a great dancer as the film includes videos where Bill Monroe is dancing. It is also noteworthy that Bill Monroe was really devoted to his mandolin which he managed to preserve almost unchangeable for many years. He loved his famous mandolin ‘July 1923’.

Remarkably, many people stress that Bill Monroe was a really strong man. All these stories make the viewer see a man devoted to music rather than a musician working in the show industry. The viewer can see a man whose life is closely connected with music (bluegrass music, to be more precise).

Bill Monroe’s Musical Life

The film includes interviews with many musicians who keep saying that Bill Monroe is one of the pillars of western music as his style and his works affected such genres as blues, pop, and rock. Such renowned musicians as Jerry Garcia, Paul McCartney, Marty Stuart and many others claims that they have been inspired by Bill Monroe’s music.

Of course, the film is not based on interviews but it has something more conspicuous. The film includes many videos of Monroe’s performances. There are early pictures of him and his family as well as his band The Monroe Brothers. There are parts of performances of the famous Blue Grass Boys. Members of this group talk about their work with Bill Monroe.

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Analysis of Two Most Remarkable Pieces

“Uncle Pen”

One of the most remarkable pieces which appear in the film is “Uncle Pen”. Apart from being one of the most conventional bluegrass compositions, “Uncle Pen” is a very special song for Bill Monroe. He devoted the song to his uncle who inspired him. In this song, Monroe also used tunes he heard from his uncle. The piece is performed by five musicians. Such instruments as a mandolin, a banjo, a guitar, a fiddle and a double bass are used. The tempo is allegro, which makes the music really lively and energetic. The tempo changes throughout the piece several times: it changes from allegro to allegretto and back. The piece is characterized by high pitch. The piece is also accompanied by vocal. Bill Monroe is the lead voice and the rest of the musicians sing the chorus together.

“Mule Skinner Blues”

The other piece to be discussed is “Mule Skinner Blues” which can also be regarded as a conventional bluegrass piece. Thus, the same conventional instruments are used: a mandolin, a banjo, a guitar, a fiddle and a double bass. The tempo is also allegro. The piece is characterized by high pitched. Unlike the first piece, this one is accompanied by Monroe’s vocal only. The rest of the musicians do not sing along. Monroe’s vocal in this song is also more varied, so to speak. The pitch and even timbre is alternated throughout the song.


To sum up, it is necessary to note that the film in question dwells upon one man who embodies features of a musical genre. Bill Monroe is one of the pillars of bluegrass music and western music, in general. The film reveals a variety of episodes from the musician’s life. This helps the viewer see who Bill Monroe really was. He was a man whose life was filled with music. Importantly, he did not simply create a number of bluegrass masterpieces, but he shared his knowledge and his experience, and even a part of his very soul with younger artists. Admittedly, this selflessness makes Bill Monroe one of the most remarkable musicians who made bluegrass music live and develop throughout the twentieth century and even longer.

Works Cited

Bill Monroe – The Father of Bluegrass Music. Dir. Steve Gebhardt. New York, NY: Winstar. 1999. DVD.

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StudyCorgi. "Film Studies – Bill Monroe: Father of Bluegrass Music." May 19, 2020.


StudyCorgi. 2020. "Film Studies – Bill Monroe: Father of Bluegrass Music." May 19, 2020.


StudyCorgi. (2020) 'Film Studies – Bill Monroe: Father of Bluegrass Music'. 19 May.

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