Documentary ‘This is Love’ to screen at Aspen Art Museum

Documentary "This is Love," about soul musician Rudy Love, will screen at the Aspen Art Museum on Thursday night.
Courtesy photo

IF YOU GO . . .

What: ‘This is Love’

Where: Aspen Art Museum

When: Thursday, Feb. 13, 5:30 p.m.

How much: Free

More info: The screening will be preceded by a musical performance by Mark Nussmeier and followed by a Q&A with director John Alexander and producer JC Guest;

You may not know his name or his songs, but you’ll recognize funk and soul bandleader Rudy Love’s sound from samples by contemporary hip-hop artists like Jay-Z and Dilated Peoples.

A new documentary makes the case for Love as the great unsung hero of soul, tracing the Wichita-based musician’s long and bumpy road to recognition.

“I’m mostly in it to make music myself, which has been my downfall for many years,” Love says early in “This is Love,” which will screen Thursday night at the Aspen Art Museum.

Filmmakers John Alexander and JC Guest will be on-hand for a post-screening Q&A, as the documentary begins its educational and institutional release in Aspen.

The film is a portrait of the artist and a devastating examination of how the music business has exploited Love.

Along with gripping archival footage of Love onstage and in the studio, “This is Love” includes interviews with luminaries like George Clinton and Mick Fleetwood (who also executive produced “This is Love”) and the comedian Sinbad, all of them champions of Love’s work.

Based throughout his career in Wichita, Kansas, Love has been playing regular hometown gigs since the 1960s, while falling prey to unscrupulous record executives on the coasts.

The oldest of 17 siblings, Love roped in his brothers and sisters to perform with him as Rudy Love and the Love Family. As Love recalls, he decided to keep it in the family after he grew tired of teaching new backing bandmembers his songs. He leans on the family as his music and its profits are stolen. (The family legacy in the arts has continued with his niece Marsai Martin, who plays the precocious daughter Diane on the sitcom “Black-ish.”)

George Clinton calls the Love family “the real unsung heroes of the era” in the film.

While Love and his songs like “Love Electricity” deeply influenced ’70s funk hit-makers like Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, he remained one of music’s best-kept secrets until Jay-Z prominently sampled Love on “Sweet,” from his 2007 “American Gangster” album.

He’s still no household name, though this documentary may start changing that. Not that Love is looking for fame after seven decades playing music. As he puts it in the film: “The thing about me and fame is that we love and hate each other.”