Music Biopics

Danny Leigh from The Guardian weighs in on the new crop of music biofilms coming through:

Among the foremost "buzz films" (sorry) delighting Park City has, for instance, been The Runaways. A biopic of Joan Jett, Cherie Currie and their legendary posse of 70s proto-riot grrrls ....

... Witness in recent weeks alone the excitement around Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Mat Whitecross's excellent portrait of Ian Dury, and the less justifiable fuss about Sam Taylor-Wood's sudsy young Lennon saga, Nowhere Boy. After the visionary Hunger, meanwhile, Steve McQueen is to turn next to the fascinating life of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. By the time that makes it on screen, there will surely have been any number of others coming down the pipe, if not from here then Hollywood.

He concludes with a wishlist of musicians he'd like to see on film:

But the prize catches for me lie elsewhere – in the diverse forms of Afrika Bambaataa and Syd Barrett. The first could follow its hero from gang leadership in the South Bronx to spiritual epiphanies in Africa and the introduction of the world to hip-hop (Warriors meets Malcolm X meets 8 Mile, in the parlance of the studio executive); the second, in all its fractured melancholy, would surely be the last word (finally) in the 40-year celebration of 60s rock gods.

This set me thinking - what would my preference be for musicians I'd like to see on film. Obviously, it has to be cinematic, a life staid lived wouldn't translate well onto screen. Here are some candidates:

  • Marvin Gaye: There's been numerous rumors through the years about some kind of project taking off (here's an example) but the music rights have always proved too painful to surmount. Regardless, the man's life would make a helluva film. Starting off as a doowop singer, then Motown session drummer, rising all the way to the top on his own terms then getting sidelined by drugs and his own inner demons, mounting a comeback only to be shot by his own Minister father? Are you kidding me?

  • Fleetwood Mac: The recording of Rumours alone had enough illegal substances, dalliances and breakups for an entire book, never mind the entire history of the band. Should be fascinating.

  • Ravi Shankar: If you read his autobiography, the talent and the prickly nature of the man comes through. He also loosely touches on his own private life and his "a woman in every port" approach. Given the amazing arc of his career, this one is a no-brainer as well. I have no idea how commercially viable this is but I do worry about how sanitized it would be if an official version ever comes out.


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- January 31, 2010 7:02 PM // Film , Music