In the summer of 1999, filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker started looking for the forgotten artists from the legendary Motown and Stax labels. The latter never quit working, but are rarely given the opportunity anymore to record a new record or CD. In the film, legendary stars are interviewed like Wilson Pickett, Sam Moore (from Sam and Dave), Mary Wilson (from The Supremes), Isaac Hayes, Jerry Butler and the Chi Lites. Furthermore, old footage of the artists is combined with images of current gigs. The harrowing truth about royalties is brought to light: none of these artists owns the rights to the songs they sing or have written. Consequently, ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE presents an honest but sober image of the former headliners' fate. The music, however, has not lost any of its strength, and because Hegedus and Pennebaker chose to show the songs in their entirety, the documentary swings like crazy.