Private Project

A TASTE OF HEAVEN: The Ecstatic Song & Gospel of Maestro Raymond Anthony Myles

Raymond Anthony Myles was the electrifying Gospel Genius of New Orleans. Like a comet shooting across the sky, he was here one minute – brilliant, incandescent and unmistakably unique. And then, just as quickly, he was gone.

A TASTE OF HEAVEN: THE ECSTATIC SONG & GOSPEL OF MAESTRO RAYMOND ANTHONY MYLES follows Raymond from the everyday violence of public housing in New Orleans; to the public schools where he steered countless students away from gangs and drugs; to the Southern churches where he mesmerized the faithful; to the Telluride Bluegrass and Newport Folk festivals where he made new, wonderstruck fans -- until his shocking murder, in 1998, on the cusp of music stardom, in the projects he could not leave behind.

But Raymond was more than a maverick musician. He was also highly representative of a vital but scorned minority within the Black church: a queer man who struggled with dogma and Scripture that said, "God's love does not apply to you."

Raymond's short, turbulent life was a complex and colorful journey, propelled by outsized talent, fierce ambition and deeply rooted in the gritty, vibrant city that shaped him. His music amplified the voice of everyday, unseen Black America. And it continues to speak to the universal human experience.

  • Leo Sacks
    Director
    https://www.linkedin.com/in/leosacks/
  • Leo Sacks
    Writer
    https://www.linkedin.com/in/leosacks/
  • Harry Shearer
    Executive Producers
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Shearer
  • Judith Owen
    Executive Producers
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Owen
  • Verdine White
    Executive Producers
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verdine_White
  • John Caulkins
    Executive Producers
    https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3360339/
  • Cyril E. Vetter
    Executive Producers
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyril_Vetter
  • Richard Gold
    Producer
  • Drew Carolan
    Producer
    https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0139010/
  • John Pirozzi
    Cinematography
    https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0685297/
  • Charnelle (Cha) Quallis
    Editing
    https://www.chaquallis.com/
  • Project Type:
    Documentary
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 25 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    August 1, 2024
  • Production Budget:
    542,250 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    Yes
  • Student Project:
    No
Director Biography - Leo Sacks

Leo Sacks is a Grammy Award-winning music producer. His associations at Sony Music with Aretha Franklin, Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, Earth, Wind & Fire, Luther Vandross, the Isley Brothers and the songwriters-producers Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff have preserved their legacies, and also introduce them to a new generation.

Sacks has been a journalist and broadcast producer at Billboard, CNN, CBS News, NBC Nightly News, Reuters Television and The New York Times Book Review.

Born and raised in New York City, he teaches "Documentary Filmmaking & Storytelling" at Rutgers University’s School of Communication & Information in New Brunswick, N.J.

A TASTE OF HEAVEN is his first feature-length theatrical documentary.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Raymond Myles was more than a maverick musician. He was also highly representative of a vital but scorned minority within the Black church -- a queer man who struggled with dogma and Scripture which tried to tell him: God's love does not apply to you.

The winds of change were blowing down from Washington when I first heard Raymond in the Gospel Tent at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1982. I was on assignment for Billboard magazine and I was completely unprepared for what I experienced.

The Reagan presidency had created a climate of fear among the working poor in New Orleans. But Raymond gave people hope. His message of compassion and tolerance, charged with the most stirring and soulful music I had ever heard, spoke to me in a way that other music never had.

Ten years later, when no one else would, I offered Raymond the opportunity to make “A Taste of Heaven,” his first full-length studio album of original material. “The masses should be made aware of what New Orleans has known for years,” Billboard said in its review. “Raymond Anthony Myles is a major talent worthy of a national stage."

Raymond poured his heart and soul into his project. But the gatekeepers in the mainstream gospel music industry refused to acknowledge him as a marketable artist. They said the perception that Raymond was queer was too problematic for gospel’s evangelical fans. To Raymond, the notion that his private life might actually affect his destiny was unthinkable. Unfathomable. He grew defiant when I broke this crushing news.

"If I’m a Christian," he demanded, “doesn't that make me a child of God, too?"

Raymond Myles knew where he wanted to go in this life. He also knew that he might not get there. Call it the intuition of man whose artistic genius was always in touch with the Higher Spirit.

--Leo Sacks
New York City
Spring 2024