“Finding Joseph I: The HR From Bad Brains Documentary”

The Life and Struggles of Paul “HR” Hudson

Amos Lassen

I must be honest from the very beginning. Before I watched this film I had no idea of who Paul “HR” Hudson was; I had never heard of him before. Not that I know I have no idea it that makes me a better person or not but I must say that I learned something watching this film.

“Finding Joseph I” is a feature documentary that chronicles the eccentric life and struggles of punk rock reggae singer, Paul “HR” Hudson, a.k.a. Joseph I, the lead singer of Bad Brains. I understand that his energetic and explosive live performances helped pioneer hardcore punk rock with the Bad Brains, one of the most influential bands to come out of the 1980’s. HR’s devotion to the Rastafarian faith guided him in a spiritual direction and he left the band several times to explore his love for reggae music as the solo artist, HR Human Rights. Over the years, the Bad Brains have reunited several times only to struggle with his unpredictably. His behavior became increasingly strange and abnormal and there were many who were many convinced that was because of his suffering from psychological troubles while others believe he is still living out his journey as one of the greatest front men in rock and roll history. If the latter is the case, I cannot help but wonder why I had never heard of him before.

This documentary features interviews with musicians and peers that HR has worked with and influenced him and as share their stories and first hand experiences. Most importantly we also hear from HR himself about his life, philosophies, and career and we see that he continues to write, record, and perform while he spreads his message of universal peace and love.

The film does not shy away from addressing HR’s mental state and this is not a film about Bad Brains, the band but about the amazing and odd and troubled singer who leads it. We see his tragic decline into various (mostly unidentified) mental illness problems and his story is both powerful and sad and HR has really been “gone” for the last two decades.

Director James Lathos traces HR’s psychological issues (including rumors of schizophrenia) that have plague his adult years. We gain an understanding of where he was coming from, what he has experienced and how he is seen by others. I understand that this aspect of HR’s life has never been seriously delved into before.

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