"THE BALLAD OF RAMBLIN' JACK is the portrait
of a true American folk hero. From his unlikely roots as the son of
a Jewish doctor in Brooklyn, to his ongoing wanderings as the last of the
singing cowboys, Ramblin' Jack has packed so many adventures into his 68
years that he seems more myth than man. And he's got stories about
it all - from running away to the rodeo at the age of 15, to touring the
continent with his dog, Caesar at the wheel. He inspired Mick Jagger
to pick up his first guitar, and passed down the legacy of Woody Guthrie
to a young Bob Dylan. His music, as much the stuff of legend as his
rambles, helped ignite a folk revolution in the 60s and has influenced
generation after generation of singers and songwriters."
Following is a brief interview with Jack Elliot and
his daugher, Aiyana, the director of BALLAD OF RAMBLIN' JACK.
American Dreamer (to
Ramblin' Jack): You have inspired many musical talents (like Bob Dylan and
Mick Jagger) who went on to fame, yet your talents have remained in the
shadows. Why do you think that is?
Jack Elliot: They were
too good for me (smiling). They just overshadowed me. I was just a match;
they were the guys with the TNT. They had tremendous talent, had high
energy, deep thinkers, and had good management. I never had a manager; I
have a great one now, I'm marrying her next week.
AD: During the making
of this film, what were your feelings, thoughts, and opinions about having
a film made about you?
JE: Well I never thought
I'd ever actually be in a movie but when I used to be hitchhiking around
countries, I had many hours of loneliness and I would see interesting
scenery. I'd be standing in that scenery just admiring for a long time or
getting sleepy, waiting for a beautiful truck to go by, and then another
beautiful truck would go by, and another beautiful truck stopped and I'd get
in and ride; and I thought this was like a movie and I wished I had a camera
with me. So those thoughts came to me quite early.
AD (to Aiyana): I
felt, from watching this film that it was almost as much about you as it
was about your father. Tell us what you gained from this filming?
Aiyana Elliot: I think I
did end up with a stronger sense of my own heritage and family. I brought a
lot of different people's stories and experiences together. Both my parents
were brought up in more traditional kind of families in the east coast, and
both moved west and chose not to have a lot of contact with their families.
I grew up in a real strong, kind of a longing for family tradition
structure, so that's always been an interesting thing for me-to know my
AD: Near the end of
the film, you suggested that you probably would never get to talk to your
father, or get to know him. How has making this documentary changed that
AE: It's given us a lot
more time together, to get to know each other better. That may not be a very
fair statement. I think what I actually said was to have an actual
conversation with my Dad, and I think there's a lot of communication there.
It's just not like a standard, question and answer conversation like with
AD: What was your
reaction when you first viewed the movie?
AE: That would probably
be in Sundance. Gosh, it's just an amazing feeling to put together a life's
work and to see it as a finished product. It's just like a miracle. That was
also the first time my Dad got to see it, so that experience was very much
about getting to share it with him.
AD (to Jack Elliot):
How about you Jack, when you first saw it?
JE: I was very proud,
but there were some times when I felt like slumping down in my seat and
disappearing into the floor, because I didn't feel comfortable with all the
scenes, moments we all haveÖ.