November 11th, 2020

CNN Films Premieres ‘JIMMY CARTER, ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT’ on January 3rd

The 39th President’s life, illuminated by music in new film by acclaimed director Mary Wharton


CNN will premiere JIMMY CARTER, ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT for television on Sunday, Jan. 3 at 9:00pm Eastern and Pacific.  During his political career and following his presidency, the 39th President of the United States formed lifelong bonds with artists Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Rosanne Cash, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Nile Rodgers, and many, many others.  Director Mary Wharton’s engaging film explores how President Carter’s deep love of all forms of music has been both a feature and an asset for his storied life and career.

As he ran for president, Carter’s long-standing support from popular music artists dating from before his gubernatorial campaign gave the lesser-known underdog a difference-making boost in the primaries that carried through to his win in November.  Once Carter became president, musicians were also frequent guests at the White House, adding fun and, often, a point of connection for political allies, foes, and foreign leaders.

Director Mary Wharton and producer Chris Farrell commented, “We believe CNN viewers will enjoy our film as a nostalgic journey that touches on issues still facing our country today.  “Rock & Roll President” is a study in courage and compassion, and we tried to convey President Carter’s innate optimism that we hope will resonate with our fellow Americans as we look ahead toward 2021.  We share this film with families that we also hope will find a reason to come together in appreciation for the great American values that President Jimmy Carter embodies: Truth, Justice…. and Rock & Roll.”

A wide-ranging, often poignant interview with the Nobel Prize winner and former president, Jimmy Carter at his home in Plains, Georgia, serves as the spine of the film.  Punctuated with archival footage, the film examines Carter’s biography within the context of what at the time seemed to be the dawning of a new age of race and gender relations and human rights.

Carter’s love of music seemed to augment his natural abilities to relate to people of all ages, races, and cultures.  Intimate contemporary interviews with Madeleine Albright, Willie Nelson, Chip Carter, Bono, Chuck Leavell, Andrew Young, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, and more, describe their relationships with the former president, his sense of humor, his innate compassion, and his inspiring commitment to service.  The film also features footage of era-defining live performances by Jimmy Buffett, Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, Bob Dylan, and many more.

“Mary beautifully illustrates President Carter’s life through music and rare archival footage.  By revealing how Jimmy Carter continues to connect to and inspire people through his love of music, Mary has found a novel way to explore the biography of a well-known president,” said Courtney Sexton, senior vice president for CNN Films.  Sexton and Amy Entelis, executive vice president for talent and content development for CNN Worldwide, are both executive producers for the documentary.

JIMMY CARTER, ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT was an official selection of the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival.  President Carter greeted the virtual audience by phone following a special screening of the film he has described as “entertaining” and “emotional” at the 2020 AFI DOCS Film Festival.  JIMMY CARTER, ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT is a Not Just Peanuts production, financed by Thunder Moccasin Pictures.

During the Jan. 3 television premiere, JIMMY CARTER, ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT will stream live for subscribers via CNNgo ( and via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, Samsung Smart TV, and Android TV) and on the CNN mobile apps for iOS and Android.  The film will be available on demand beginning Monday, Jan. 4, via cable/satellite systems, CNNgo platforms, and CNN mobile apps.  The film will encore Saturday, Jan. 9 at 10:00pm Eastern.

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President Carter and Willie Nelson backstage at the Merriwether Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD (1980) Image courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library


Bono, President Carter, Nile Rodgers (2016) Image courtesy of the We Are Family Foundation


About Mary Wharton

Director Mary Wharton won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Music Film for her documentary feature SAM COOKE: LEGEND. Other notable feature film credits include JOAN BAEZ: HOW SWEET THE SOUND, the platinum-selling concert film PHISH: IT, and FARRAH FAWCETT FOREVER.


About CNN Films

CNN Films produces and acquires documentary feature and short films for theatrical and festival exhibition and distribution across CNN’s multiple platforms.  Amy Entelis, executive vice president of talent and content development, oversees the strategy for CNN Films; Courtney Sexton, senior vice president for CNN Films, works day-to-day with filmmakers to oversee projects.  For more information about CNN Films, please visit and follow @CNNFilms via Twitter.  Recent acclaimed CNN Films include the Academy Award®-nominated and Emmy® Award-winning RBG, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen; Emmy® Award-nominated LOVE, GILDA, directed by Lisa D’Apolito; the Emmy® Award-nominated Three Identical Strangers, directed by Tim Wardle; LINDA RONSTADT: The Sound of My Voice, directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman; HALSTON, directed by Frédéric Tcheng; SCANDALOUS: The Untold Story of The National Enquirer, directed by Mark Landsman; and the Emmy® Award-winning APOLLO 11, directed by Todd Douglas Miller.

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