Message to Love

Message to Love is a feature documentary film of the Isle of Wight Festival 1970. Directed and produced by Murray Lerner, the film includes performances by popular rock acts, such as Jimi Hendrix, the Who, and the Doors, as well as folk and jazz artists, such as Joni Mitchell and Miles Davis. The title of the film is taken from a song by Hendrix.

Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival 1970
Paul Rodgers Isle of Wight 1970.JPG
Paul Rodgers of the band Free during their performance of "All Right Now"
Directed byMurray Lerner
Written byMurray Lerner
Produced byMurray Lerner
Edited by
  • Greg Sheldon (performance sequences)
  • Stanley Warnow (as Stan Warnow)
  • Einar Westerlund
Castle Music Pictures
Distributed byStrand Releasing
Release dates
  • October 9, 1995 (1995-10-09) (U.K.)
  • February 21, 1997 (1997-02-21) (U.S.)
Running time
127 minutes
CountryUnited States

Due to financial difficulties, Message to Love was not released until 1997, 27 years after the event, after premiering at a San Jose film festival in 1995.[1] A soundtrack album was also issued by Castle Communications/Sony Legacy in 1997.


The film often comically depicts the myriad problems associated with the chaotic festival – the main program of which was held on 26–30 August 1970 – including gate-crashing, numerous crowd incursions onto the stage, Kris Kristofferson being booed offstage, and head promoter Rikki Farr's rants against the audience, which only intensified as the situation deteriorated: "We put this festival on, you bastards, with a lot of love! We worked for one year for you pigs! And you wanna break our walls down and you wanna destroy it? Well you go to hell!" In addition, several near-riots occurred over the price of tickets, as well as during several of the performances that took place over the weekend, especially Jimi Hendrix's last billed performance in England.[2]


The filming used eight cameras,[3] and took 175 hours of 16mm and 35mm Ektachrome footage, which was later edited down to approx 78 minutes of music and 41 minutes of interviews and announcements.[1] All of the headliners were captured, only Sly Stone and Chicago refused permission to be filmed.[4]


The 1996 version of the film was given a certificate of 15, with the 1999 extended edition being rated 18 for nudity.[5] BBC2 premiered the film for the 25th anniversary of the festival. The VHS was released a month later by Castle. The Region 1 DVD was released in 1997, with the Region 2 DVD being released in 2003 by Castle.

Performances in order of appearance in the filmEdit

  1. Jimi Hendrix: "Message to Love" (Sunday) †
  2. The Who: "Young Man Blues" (Saturday)
  3. Free: "All Right Now" (Sunday)
  4. Taste: "Sinner Boy" (Friday)
  5. Tiny Tim: "There'll Always Be an England" (Saturday)
  6. John Sebastian: "Red Eye Express" (Saturday)
  7. Donovan: "Catch the Wind" (Sunday) snippet
  8. Ten Years After: "I Can't Keep from Crying Sometimes" (Saturday)
  9. The Doors: "When the Music's Over" (Saturday)
  10. The Moody Blues: "Nights in White Satin" (Sunday)
  11. Kris Kristofferson: "Me and Bobby McGee" (Wednesday)
  12. Joni Mitchell: "Woodstock" (Saturday)
  13. Mitchell: "Big Yellow Taxi"
  14. Miles Davis: "Call It Anything" (Saturday)
  15. Leonard Cohen: "Suzanne" (Sunday)
  16. Emerson, Lake & Palmer: "Pictures at an Exhibition" (Saturday)
  17. Hendrix: "Machine Gun" †
  18. Hendrix: "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)"
  19. Joan Baez: "Let It Be" (Sunday)
  20. Jethro Tull: "My Sunday Feeling" (Sunday)
  21. The Doors: "The End" (Saturday) †
  22. Great Awakening: "Amazing Grace"
  23. Hendrix: "Foxy Lady"
  24. The Who: "Naked Eye"
  25. Bob Dylan: "Desolation Row" (studio version played over the end credits)

" † " indicates songs that are not included on the CD.


Message to Love
Review scores
AllMusic     [6]
Rotten Tomatoes100%[citation needed]
TV Guide    [7]

Time Out magazine said "The music is exemplary stuff to anyone who heard it the first time around – the Doors, Free, Kris Kristofferson (who eventually stormed off stage), the Who, Miles Davis (silhouetted against the dusk), Jethro Tull – but it's the hilarity of the sound-bites that makes this really worth catching."[8]

TV Guide said "Lerner's sharp, devastingly funny film, which was to be financed by the profits, remained one of its greatest casualties – until now. Lerner managed to capture all the hilarious backstage wheeling and dealing, as well as some of the era's best live music."[7]

The Austin Chronicle said "because Message to Love does such a fine job of underscoring the ideology of a generation in conflict with the commercialism of festivals like Wight, it's easy to forget about the quality performances captured by Lerner over the five days that the festival raged".[1]

Deseret News said "Though the performances are great, the 'warts-and-all' approach the film takes elevates it from being just a good music documentary to a great one."[9] The Independent suggested the film was "twice as entertaining if you fast- forwarded through the music".[10]

Variety magazine said this expertly-edited film had "a far deeper historical insight than similar pics from its original era", adding "images are in good shape, and sound quality is excellent."[11] At the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards in 1997, the film was nominated for Best Documentary. Rolling Stone placed it at number 21 in their list of the greatest rock documentaries.[12] included the film at number 37 on their list of the best music documentaries of all time.[13] Musicoholics had it at number 37 on their list of Legendary Music Documentaries.[14] It was listed at number five on the list of Top 10 Music Festival Documentaries.[15]


Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival 1970
Live album by
Various artists
Released29 October 1996 (1996-10-29)
Recorded26–30 August 1970
VenueAfton Down Farm, Isle of Wight
GenreRock, Folk, Jazz
LabelSony Music
ProducerJon Astley

The Message to Love soundtrack album was released as a 2-CD set in 1997. It also includes dialogue from the film placed in between some of the tracks.

Track listingEdit

Disc one

  1. Free – "All Right Now" – 4:54
  2. Jethro Tull – "My Sunday Feeling" – 4:24
  3. Leonard Cohen – "Suzanne" – 4:27
  4. Jimi Hendrix – "Foxy Lady" – 5:31
  5. Hendrix – "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" – 8:56
  6. Ten Years After – "Can't Keep from Cryin'/Extension on One Chord" – 11:50
  7. Kris Kristofferson – "Me and Bobby McGee" – 5:44
  8. Joni Mitchell – "Big Yellow Taxi" – 3:46
  9. Mitchell – "Woodstock" – 4:04
  10. Emerson, Lake & Palmer – "Blue Rondo à la Turk/Pictures at an Exhibition/Drum Solo" – 7:35
  11. The Doors – "When the Music's Over" – 11:46

Disc two

  1. The Who – "Young Man Blues" – 5:54
  2. The Who – "Naked Eye" – 6:23
  3. Tiny Tim – "There'll Always Be an England" – 1:15
  4. Taste – "Sinner Boy" – 5:11
  5. Joan Baez – "Let It Be" – 3:53
  6. The Moody Blues – "Nights in White Satin" – 5:23
  7. Donovan – "Catch the Wind" – 3:51
  8. Family – "Weaver's Answer" – 7:22 (not in the film)
  9. John Sebastian – "Red Eye Express" – 3:58
  10. Miles Davis – "Call It Anything" – 14:56
  11. Great Awakening – "Amazing Grace" – 3:47
  12. Bob Dylan – "Desolation Row" – 11:43


In recent years, Lerner's copious 16mm concert footage has been repurposed to create a wealth of complete-performance DVD releases:


  1. ^ a b c Hernandez, Raoul (20 June 1997). "The Wight Stuff – Message to Love: Isle of Wight Festival". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  2. ^ Shapiro, Harry; Glebbeek, Cesar (1991). Jimi Hendrix: Electric Gypsy (1st US ed.). New York City: St. Martin's Press. pp. 447–450, 465, 695–698. ISBN 0-312-05861-6.
  3. ^ Schudel, Matt. "Murray Lerner, Oscar-winning Documentarian Who Captured Rock History, Dies at 90". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  4. ^ Message to Love DVD liner notes, Michael Heatley
  5. ^ "MESSAGE TO LOVE – THE ISLE OF WIGHT MUSIC FESTIVAL 1970 | British Board of Film Classification".
  6. ^ Unterberger, Richie. Message to Love at AllMusic
  7. ^ a b "Message To Love: The Isle Of Wight Festival | TV Guide". Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  8. ^ "Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival". Time Out Worldwide. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  9. ^ Vice, Jeff (4 April 1997). "Film review: Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival". Deseret News. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  10. ^ "review". The Independent. 28 August 1995. Archived from the original on 12 May 2022. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  11. ^ Variety Staff (12 February 1996). "Message to Love". Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  12. ^ Grow, Tim Grierson, Sam Adams, Eric Hynes, David Fear, Jason Newman, Kory; Stone, Rolling (15 August 2014). "40 Greatest Rock Documentaries". Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  13. ^ Murray, Noel (17 April 2019). "The 50 Best Music Documentaries of All Time". Vulture. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  14. ^ Gerlitz, Hadar (29 October 2019). "Legendary Music Captured on Film: The Best Music Documentaries Ranked". Musicoholics. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  15. ^ Cutris-Horsfall, Thomas (18 March 2020). "Top 10 Music Festival Documentaries". Festicket. Retrieved 31 July 2020.

External linksEdit