Sky Arts will make weekends rock with a new series of documentaries about some of the biggest names in music.

This spring Sky Arts launches a brand new line-up of feature-length music documentaries for Saturday nights with Sky Arts Rocks. Providing exclusive access to personal accounts from some of the most legendary bands and musicians of our time, the series starts with three very different documentaries, featuring the Manic Street Preachers, and Joe Cocker, alongside Don Letts recounting his memories of the ‘Punky Reggae Party’.

The season kicks off with Escape from History (TX 15 April 2017), which offers unique access to the Manic Street Preachers. James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore reflect on the disappearance – over 20 years ago – of guitarist and lyricist Richey Edwards and the impact this had on the band. Directed by BAFTA-winner Kieran Evans, the documentary features interviews with the Manics’ closest colleagues and passionate followers, who offer poignant and moving testimonies and provide new insight into the period that also saw them create Everything Must Go, which frequently appears in polls of the greatest albums of all time.

Joe Cocker, the British soul and blues singer who died in 2014, was hailed by Billy Joel as “one of the great primal rock’n’roll vocalists of all time”. As a young man in Sheffield he worked by day as a gas fitter and sang in pubs by night showcasing his remarkable voice. His performance at Woodstock in 1969 launched him to super stardom, to the brink of self-destruction, and back again. Family and teenage friends recount memories alongside seminal artists including Billy Joel, Rita Coolidge, Randy Newman, and Jimmy Webb, in Mad Dog With Soul (TX 22 April 2017), directed by multi-award winner John Edgington. The screening of Cocker’s story is timed to complement the release of The Life Of A Man – The Ultimate Hits of 1968-2013 on 10 March 2017.

In Dread Meets Punk Rockers (TX 29 April 2017) acclaimed director, DJ and musician Don Letts trawls through his extensive archive of Super 8 films from the 1970s to tell the story of when the politically alienated, multicultural youth of the era made their voices heard via the sounds of punk, dub and reggae. The sounds of Rasta culture in London could be heard in readings by Linton Kwesi Johnson and records played at The Roxy – by Letts himself when resident DJ – and were key influences on songs by The Clash and The Slits. Bob Marley would pinpoint the era as the ‘Punky Reggae Party’. Don offers a first-hand account of this scene and the trail that it blazed to shape music history.

Barbara Lee, commissioning editor, Sky Arts, says: “The launch of Sky Arts Rocks highlights the vital contribution that musicians have made throughout recent decades. These engaging documentaries will remind us of truly awesome performers and, we hope, inspire younger audiences to engage with the artists that shaped the sounds they listen to today.”

Sky Arts Rocks will air in April on Sky Arts on Saturday nights from 15 April 2017.

The season will also feature an eclectic array of documentaries about seminal musicians, exclusive to Sky Arts. These include Slash: Raised on Sunset Strip, about the iconic Guns N’ Roses guitarist; Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story, with David Bowie narrating a celebration of the life and works of guitar virtuoso Mick Ronson; The Rolling Stones: Totally Stripped, which tells the story of the two studio sessions and three live shows that made up the Stones’ Stripped project, and Leonard Cohen I’m Your Man, about the rise to fame of the prolific Canadian songwriter.

Alongside this Sky Arts Rocks will also air a season dedicated to The Beatles, marking the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. This will include the following films: My Beatles Black Album, The Beatles, Hippies & Hells Angels and The U.S vs John Lennon.