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A QualitEvolution is intended to capture positions and experiences as a participant in the evolution of the Quality profession into the 21st century. From its origins as the brainchild of Corporate Industrial Statisticians, our profession has transformed and evolved to incorporate and adapt to the demands and expectations of our modern existence.

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Authenticity and Impact - My list of Top 5 Mock Movie Musical Characters

Every so often, I use this to indulge my interest in a particular cinema genre which I find personally compelling.  For years, movies have created characters and storylines profiling characters in the music business.  I thought that it might be interesting to highlight five particular characterizations, which I am informally ranking based on their authenticity and impact.

5. Crazy Heart: Bad Blake

The portrayal of the Bad Blake character earned actor Jeff Bridges a well-deserved Oscar, while his song, "The Weary Kind", was recognized with a Grammy award as being the best song written specifically for a motion picture.  The authenticity of the song matched the Outlaw style of the character, and would not have been out of place on a compilation album alongside such artists as Willie Nelson, Waylong Jennings, or Kris Kristofferson.

4. Walk Hard: Dewey Cox

This movie is a guilty pleasure where comic actor, John C. Reilly, takes his character from a rural background in the southern US to a musical journey which intersects with the early pioneers of Rock and Roll (Elvis, Buddy Holly), the pop and folk stars of the 1960's (including an interesting exchange with the Beatles), the slick and glam styles of the 1970's until his emotional tribute concert at the end of his career.  While Reilly is a versatile and talented performer with a singing range spanning from Roy Orbison to Bob Dylan to David Bowie, the composition of the music matched the styles of the particular era.  In one case, one of the composers, Van Dyke Parks, was an actual collaborator with the Beach Boys during their Smile project.

3. The Rutles

This production from the mid-1970's involved many talented performers including cast members from the early Saturday Night Live cast (Bill Murray, John Belushi), the Monty Python comedy troupe (Eric Idle, Neil Innes),, and was complemented by the cameo appearance of legendary Beatle George Harrison.  As may be evident, the Rutles are a parody of the Beatles, and their story aligns with the history and progression of the Beatles from their formation to their dissolution.  A sequel of the Rutles was timed to align with the Beatles "Anthology" release (but the Rutles entitled their version "Archaeology").  Devoted fans of the Beatles can listen to a Rutles song and determine which of the Beatles many compositions are being parodied or replicated.  Examples can be shown below:

Rutles: "Ouch!";  Beatles: "Help!"
Rutles: "Hold My Hand"; Beatles "All My Loving, She Loves You. I Want To Hold Your Hand"
Rutles: "Love Life"; Beatles: "All You Need Is Love"
Rutles: "Get Up And Go"; Beatles: "Get Back"

Even songs that did not directly translate to an existing Beatles' song effectively replicated the singing styles and Liverpool accents of the original Beatles.  "Am I an luff, I must be in luff"

2. Spinal Tap/ The Folksmen

This refers to the groups formed by the comic actors and musicians, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer; all of whom were cast members of Saturday Night Live.  McKean gained his initial fame as Lenny on the old Laverne and Shirley sitcom, while Harry Shearer uses his versatile, deep vocal stylings to represent many characters on the Simpsons cartoon show.

In the movie, Spinal Tap, these three portrayed the members of the heavy metal band, Spinal Tap.  In a subsequent movie, A Mighty Wind, the same three convincingly played folk musicians who were reuniting for a memorial concert to a fictional record company executive.  As Spinal Tap, the songs crafted for the movie have been popularized and performed at major concerts in front of tens of thousands of listeners.  As The Folksmen, the song, Mighty Wind (of which McKean, Guest, and Shearer have composition credits along with Eugene Levy) won a Grammy for best motion picture song.

Curiously, although the musical styles are substantially different, there have been concerts which included both Spinal Tap and the Folksmen.  This has even been stripped down to an acoustic version where the three performers sing from both catalogs.  The transformation of these acts from fictional performers to legitimate acts that get booked for paid performances reflects the authenticity of the characters.

1. The Blues Brothers

The original Blues Brothers was the partnership of Saturday Night Live performers John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd.  Being devoted fans of Blues music, they created these personas to showcase the Blues performers past and present.  Their backing band consisted of existing studio musicians who had left their musical signatures on many of the top Blues songs in recent memory.  Additional contributing musicians include the legendary Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, and Aretha Franklin.

The movies themselves were very entertaining, probably the only hybrid of a musical and an action movie with phenomenal car chases and classic comedy scenes.  John Belushi was so effective and authentic as a blues singer that many of the songs they covered are more frequently attributed to the Blues Brothers than to their original (and proper) artists.  These include:
  • Soul Man (Sam and Dave)
  • Gimme Some Loving (Spencer Davis Group)
  • She Caught The KATY (Taj Mahal)
  • Sweet Home Chicago (Robert Johnson)
  • Everybody Needs Somebody To Love (Wilson Pickett)
The impact of the Blues Brothers was further entrenched by the proliferation of the themed "House of Blues" restaurants, which provide entertainment venues and offer merchandise and soul food menus for patrons. By spanning over generations, the characters of Jake and Elwood Blues will outlive their initial performers (RIP John Belushi) to the point that impersonators are booked to perform for patrons in the same manner as Elvis or The Beatles have tribute acts.

This is my list - I welcome commentary and additional opinions or contributions.


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