Satan and Adam: An Odd Couple Story

Sterling Magee and Adam Gussow in Satan and Adam. Photo credit: Cargo Film and Releasing.

Satan and Adam explores the history and heartbreak behind the unique musical duo that was Sterling Magee and Adam Gussow.

The documentary as a whole is merely conventional as documentaries go.  Director V. Scott Balcerek gets to the root of what he wants this film to be about.  The two subjects of this film, Sterling Magee and Adam Gussow, could not be more different.  Magee experienced what it was like to be exploited as a black musician.  Understandably, this led to his walking away from the industry and play on the Harlem streets.  It was not all for nothing.  Playing on the Harlem streets, Magee would be known as “Mr. Satan” and become a musical legend.

When Jewish musician Adam Gussow sees Magee playing one day in 1986, he joins in and the rest–as they say–is history.  Together, both of their lives change.  They both came up with a sound that would one day see them encounter a little known Irish band called U2.  Perhaps you’ve probably heard of them?  But I digress.  The two of them would eventually part ways as Magee would vanish without a trace.  Perhaps fame was becoming to much for the musican?

This documentary draws from over two decades of footage to show how two culturally different people could come together over music.  It speaks to the power that music has in the creation of strong bonds between people.  The fact that Balcerek would devote over 20 years to filming Satan and Adam is incredible in its own right.  Most filmmakers would typically take a few years at the most to make a documentary.  But to take some twenty plus years certainly shows some dedication!

As it is, this mostly unknown duo from New York gets introduced on the world stage once again.  They do so in a film that cuts to a deeper meaning of class and race.   What makes V. Scott Balcerek the right filmmaker for the job is that he’s also a musician himself.  This enables him to bring this musical perspective to the film.  Well, not only musical if we want to be precise here because of this deeper discussion at hand.  He would first see the duo perform in 1992–a year that saw the Los Angeles Riots as a result of the Rodney King beating.  But in making the film, life would throw him a lemon because you can never predict how life unfolds.

Satan and Adam may be an odd couple but if these two can bond over music, just imagine what else can possibly happen.

DIRECTOR:  V. Scott Balcerek
SCREENWRITERS:  V. Scott Balcerek and Ryan Suffern
FEATURING:  Sterling Magee, Adam Gussow

Cargo Films and Releasing opens Satan and Adam in theaters on April 12, 2019. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.