Who Is Ike White? New Documentary Captures Incredible Story of Incarcerated Musician

The documentary “The Changin’ Times of Ike White” chronicles the musician’s search for identity out of prison and is a must-watch for music fans.

One of the great untold stories of American music history finds a new audience in the documentary “The Changin’ Times of Ike White.”

Ike White was a talented musician and singer who released only one album, which was recorded entirely in a California prison where White was serving a life sentence for the murder of an eldery grocery store clerk who was shot during an armed robbery.

The documentary follows his creative journey as well as his search for identity out of prison and the emotional wake he leaves behind.

Click the audio player to hear the music of Ike White and learn more about his story from documentary producer Vivienne Perry:

Courtesy of filmmakers
Courtesy of filmmakers

The “Changin’ Times” album was released in 1976 and was recorded with help from Jerry Goldstein, who had brought back-up singers and a mobile recording unit inside the prison. Sly and Family Stone drummer Greg Errico produced the album, which blends funk, soul and R&B.

The project caught the ear of Stevie Wonder, who was in the process of recording “Songs In The Key of Life.” Wonder arranged for White to get a new lawyer who helped free White from prison after serving 14 years.

“It was the music that attracted me to this story,” says producer Vivienne Perry, who worked on the film alongside director Daniel Vernon. “As the story unfolded in front of us, it became a lot more complicated.” 

Once White was released from prison, he disappeared completely and had changed names several times. The documentary finds its heart as Perry and her team seek out White, aiming to better understand his story.

“We tracked him down and we filmed with him,” says Perry. “The lives he had after prison were very different. The film became much more nuanced and complex in terms of an assessment of a life and an examination of identity.”

“The Changin’ Times of Ike White” is streaming virtually via the Film Lab in Hamtramck. Tickets and more information available here.

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  • Ryan Patrick Hooper
    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.