It’s been said that because gay people can’t have children, that art is the legacy and offspring they leave the world. If that’s true, then Danny Fields, the subject of the documentary Danny Says truly deserves his nickname as the “one of the godfathers of punk.”
Born in 1941, he was openly gay years before the Stonewall Riots. After a childhood on meth, Field became a university student by age 15, and dropped out of Harvard Law School to become one of the most prescient and influential tastemakers in modern music history, even though many folks haven’t heard of him. He basically had a knack for surrounding himself with influential artists like the Velvet Underground, MC5, The Doors, Niko Case, Iggy Pop and The Ramones and helping bring them into the American mainstream before they hit big as a magazine editor, a music publicist, and eventual executive at Elektra Records.
Danny Says is director Brendan Toller’s second feature length film, the first of which was I Need That Record, which examined why over 3,000 independent music stores have closed in the U.S. in the last decade. Danny Says includes segments from over 90 hours worth of interviews and is about 60 percent composed from Field’s own collection of audio recordings, photographs, paintings, books and magazines — a collection that now partly resides in Yale University Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Reassembled in Toller’s capable hands, Danny Sez ends up being a musical collage of the counter-cultural New York City music scene during the ’60s and ’70s with one of the most charming and open-minded storytellers you’ve ever met.
The film leaves you with the feeling that if you’re a little bit crazy and trust your own off-kilter sense of style that you can end up living a legendary life that also positively changes the world in the process. Queers did it at Stonewall, punk rockers did it in New York City, and you can too.