Sunday, December 28, 2008


I'm sure there's lots that people can complain about when watching Cadillac Records, the film about Chess Records. For one, Phil Chess, brother of Leonard Chess - they ran the label together - wasn't in the film at all. For another, neither was Bo Diddley, surely one of the most important artists on the label, and of the rock era. I guess both omissions may have been to streamline the story: having just one Chess brother made it more focused, and Chuck Berry represented the rock era overtaking blues, so maybe the producers felt that Bo would have been one character too many. (Or maybe Bo, who once told me that he never made a dime off of record sales, didn't allow the film to use his likeness - and watching this film, you can see why he didn't get paid, or didn't feel that he got paid fairly).

But I loved the film. I thought Jeffrey Wright, an amazing actor, was great as Muddy, Eamonn Walker was incredible as Howlin' Wolf, Mos Def kind of stole his scenes as Chuck Berry and Beyonce was way better than I expected her to be as Etta James. I'd love to see Walker as Howlin' Wolf in his own film, and ditto for Mos Def as Chuck. Or even do like an HBO series of spin-offs. There was a lot I didn't know that I learned watching the film: I knew there was a Muddy/Wolf rivalry, but you really see how it developed in the film. I also didn't know how crazy Little Walter was (and Columbus Short played that role extremely well). Great movie that seems to be in danger of being lost, despite Beyonce's star power. That would be a shame, more people need to see this film: and hopefully it turns people on to the incredible music that Chess brought to the world: the music of Muddy, Wolf, Chuck, Etta, Little Walter, and also Bo, Walter and John Lee Hooker (also not in the film), among many others.

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