Ten Musicians Besides James Brown Who Deserve Biopics
The trajectory of the life of a rock 'n' roll star and the Hollywood movie go hand in hand. Our protagonist is often a tortured genius, raised from the gutter to the glitz and glamour of fame, drunk on its toxic alchemy of drink, drugs, and destructive romance. There might be a sense of a life wasted, an element of martyrdom about their end, or even better, a comeback. The excesses of stardom are nixed in favor of a simpler life where the protagonist finds comfort in walking their dog on the beach over snorting mountains of white powder.
The new James Brown biopic, Get On Up, set for release today, should provide examples of some of the above and then some. Born in a shack in Georgia, and raised for a time in a brothel, Brown exploded from the southern "chitlin circuit" scene, breaking new ground in music, performance, and badassedness. Against the turbulent backdrop of the Vietnam and civil rights era, the "Godfather of Soul" became a spokesman for black America, creating challenging, exhilarating music, frenetic live shows while sporting increasingly wild costumes and hairdos. There is of course the darker side -- substance abuse and car crash relationships -- and an element of career twilight redemption in there to boot. It's surprising that Hollywood didn't latch onto this sooner after his 2006 Christmas Day death.
Here's a list of other artists whose larger than life antics could provide fodder for Hollywood.
The Mamas & the Papas remain one of the most evocative acts of '60s West Coast flower power hippidom. In Cass Elliot, the quartet had one of the most powerful voices of the era and one who broke the mold for what was acceptable for female singers. She was overweight, outwardly confident, witty, and had vocal range that blew her waifish contemporaries away.
Cass Elliot was also a working single mother and was allegedly involved with string of suitors including Donovan, Peter Tork, and John Lennon. Her Beverly Hills villa was a hub of '60s excess, hosting parties that the likes of Jack Nicholson, David Crosby, and Grace Slick regularly attended. When the Mamas & the Papas broke up in the late '60s, it was Elliot who emerged as the break out star with her gorgeous rendition of "Dream a Little Dream of Me."
However, there was also the murkier side to her stardom. Though on the surface Elliot was brash and assertive, beneath there was a desire to be slim that success only embellished. Dangerous crash diets and drug addiction ensued, highlighted by a disastrous Vegas performance where, clearly very sick, she was unable to complete a show, to the boos and heckles of the crowd, and the acid pen of music critics.
Her tragic death in 1974 at 32 after a series of sellout shows in London should also be cleared up. The pervasive myth that the songstress died choking on a ham sandwich fits too neatly with the media's nasty perception of her. In this sense, a biopic could provide just reverence to an artist of impeccable talent.
Possible players: Melissa McCarthy, Michelle Williams