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Sound And Vision: Justin Timberlake as Elton John and Six Other Wish-List Music Biopics

Every great screen biography of a music superstar needs three key ingredients to really sing: 1) An icon with the greatest story never told. 2) A talented lead actor or actress gunning for an Oscar nomination—singing talent and striking resemblance optional (Angela Bassett didn’t sing a word in What’s Love Got to Do with It, and she looks nothing like the film’s subject, yet she was Tina Turner). 3) Kick-ass songs.

Fantasia Barrino
as gospel great Mahalia Jackson is coming soon. The Elton John Story (aka Rocketman) is reportedly finally in the works (I’d cast Justin Timberlake over mentioned favorite James McAvoy and pray that he can nail a British accent), as is Aretha Franklin’s (with or without Halle Berry, the Queen of Soul’s No. 1 choice), Anne Hathaway as Judy Garland and Sacha Baron Cohen as Freddie Mercury.

Robert Pattinson was announced as a possible Kurt Cobain at one point last year, but it’s hard to imagine that we’d get the true story as long as Courtney Love is around to kill it or put her spin on it. Ryan Gosling has the chops to pull off Cobain, but he’s already in everything and he’s several years older than Cobain was when he committed suicide. Note to aspiring biopic producers: One doesn’t have to cast a “star” as the star. Some biopics (Amadeus, starring Tom Hulce as Mozart; La vie en rose, with Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf) do just fine without huge names.

Now that she’s gone too soon, too, it’s probably only a matter of time before we get Amy Winehouse‘s “untold” story. Note to aspiring biopic producers: Tabloid-era stars are best left alone unless, as with Eminem’s 8 Mile, the focus is on life before they were famous. Otherwise, we’ve already seen the action play out in the pages of Us Weekly and People magazine.

But what about those biopics in various stages of development and non-development? Here are six that I’m dying to see.

1) David Bowie: The star. The spectacle. The songs… Iman. I can’t think of a rock icon whose story is more deserving of the screen treatment. It would be a shoo-in for the Best Costume Design Oscar, and with a star like Jonathan Rhys Meyers (who already played a Bowie-esque figure to perfection in the 1998 film Velvet Goldmine), an actor worthy of the material.

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The EditoriaList: Top Ten Fictional Music Movies

The EditoriaList is the devious brainchild of one Scott Janovitz, who will use this space to summarize, in convenient list form, the best and worst of whatever occurs to him. Anything related to music, anyway. Janovitz claims to be a Boston-based writer, music producer and award-winning singer and songwriter, but according to the research we can piece together is more likely a petty thief. He is highly opinionated but will begrudgingly listen to those who disagree with him in order to explain to them why they are wrong.

Top Ten Fictional Music Movies:

10. Light of Day (1987)

Who in 1987 wasn’t waiting for the Michael J. Fox – Joan Jett big screen pairing? The only question was what the vehicle would be. A rom-com? Sci-fi thriller? A Tango & Cash–esque buddy cop action-comedy? A Back to the Future sequel where Marty meets The Runaways in 1977? To everyone’s surprise, what we got was an unexpectedly gritty family drama, centering on the relationship between brother and sister Joe and Patty (Fox and Jett), who perform together in a struggling E Street-esque bar band called The Barbusters. I have just told you the worst part of the movie. The Barbusters. This blow is softened by the appearance of the great Michael McKean as a band member—one of McKean’s THREE appearances on this list.

Paul Schrader, writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, wrote and directed this film and in fact commissioned a song by Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen came back with “Born In The U.S.A.” but decided to keep that one for himself. Too bad, it could have been a hit. The Barbusters do a decent job with his alternate effort, the title song “Light of Day.” And, hey, look, Michael J. Fox can sing. This begs the question—what the hell, Robert Zemeckis? The idea it’s Fox’ voice singing “Johnny B. Goode” in Back to the Future is the least credible part of a movie about a time traveling DeLorean that runs on plutonium.

9. 8 Mile (2002)

Everyone said Eminem was basically playing himself in this film about an aspiring rapper from Detroit with a fucked-up mom and few prospects aside from an innate and unique lyrical flow. But it’s a mistake to go into this thinking it’s the Eminem Story. Em and director Curtis Hanson wisely keep Em’s character B-Rabbit sullen and low-key. The rapper is not a great actor, but he plays this one just right, with visibly crippling insecurity and remarkably restrained rage. The cleverness of the impromptu rhymes staged on street corners and at club battles are just short of believable, but (spoiler alert) at the end, when B-Rabbit destroys all comers with Eminem’s signature delivery, disbelief is easily suspended. Eminem won an Oscar for the great lead song “Lose Yourself.”

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A Super Heavy Supergroup

A new supergroup is on the horizon, but “new” isn’t really the right word— the band has been recording its debut album in secret for the past eighteen months. The seed was planted by Dave Stewart two years ago, when he called up Mick Jagger and proposed the idea of fusing several different genres together. After some brainstorming and a few phone calls, they picked up Joss Stone, Damian Marley and A.R. Rahman to complete the spectrum. We don’t have any doubt that people are intrigued by this illustrious medley of musicians, but let’s face it: Jagger isn’t exactly known for playing nice with others.

Mick and Dave

We could have called this article “When Egos Collide,” but then again, none of these guys are notorious egomaniacs with the exception of Jagger. Rahman, considered “the world’s most prominent and prolific film composer” by Time Magazine, has been quoted saying “[T]here is only one of the two that can reside in our heart: God or ego. If God is in, ego is out.” Jagger, on the other hand, has been quoted saying “Obviously I have this sort of strange animal magnetism. It’s very hard for me to take my eyes off myself.” Let’s not be too judgmental, though, because the quote’s taken out of context and there’s a good chance that he’s kidding around anyway. But what about his lifelong friend Keith Richards, who refers to Mick as “her majesty” and “unbearable”? You could chalk it up to jealousy, the nature of their relationship or even argue that Mick has earned the right to act the way he does, but come on, it’s pretty obvious that there’s some truth behind the words. Either way, it’s going to be interesting to see if he can share the stage with four other music heavyweights.

It’s still unclear if the supergroup, called “Super Heavy,” will have a definitive frontman or not. According to CNN, Jagger is excited about having four vocalists in the band because it gives him a chance to play other instruments, as well as alleviate some of the dependence on him as a singer. The issue probably won’t come up anyway, unless the band goes on tour, but touring certainly seems like a possibility. “I think if we’re rehearsing and it sounds great and people love the idea then nobody would rule out the possibility of it,” said Stewart. But it’s hard to picture Mick giving up his share of the limelight for the likes of Joss Stone, Damian Marley or anyone else for that matter. In the meantime, the album is recorded, as well as their first video, and it looks like they’re planning a release around September.

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Timberlake and Samberg edify audiences about “The Golden Rule”

What would a Justin Timberlake hosting gig on SNL be without a digital short with Andy Sandberg and some Cross Colours overalls? This latest masterwork introduces the helicopter technology into the art of lovemaking, and includes a very special musical guest. Oh, and if you stick around after the video is over, you’ll get to see Michael Bolton dressed as a pirate.

Mitch Winehouse resurrects music career

Mitch Winehouse, or Amy’s pop, is returning to a music career he left in the ‘70s in order to raise his children. The 61 year-old cab driver just released Rush of Love on Janey Records. The record features covers of jazz and lounge songs and four originals. None of which include the lyrics, “I tried to make her go to rehab and she said no, no, no.”

The Bad

Beyoncé takes a page from Lorella Cuccarini for BMAs

Beyoncé took some heat this week when it was discovered that her multimedia performance at the Billboard Music Awards was suspiciously similar to a performance by Italian pop star Lorella Cuccarini. Beyoncé responded tout suite, saying she had seen Cuccarini’s performance and contacted the producers to collaborate with her on her own interactive video. Personally, we like Beyoncé’s video piece more, but with a hook borrowed from Major Lazer and a performance borrowed from Cuccarini, you can hardly call her innovative on this one. You can watch the two videos side by side below, thanks to the magical powers of the Internet.

Taylor Swift releases video for “The Story of Us”

Awkward run-ins with an ex are a rite of passage, one that’s captured by Taylor Swift on her new video for “The Story of Us.” The track is rumored to be inspired by her messy break-up with John Mayer. Hang down your head, John. Voyeurs can check out the video below.

The Ugly

Joseph Brooks commits suicide

Oscar-winning singer-songwriter Joseph Brooks, famous for his perennial ballad “You Light Up My Life,” died this week in what has been ruled a suicide by asphyxiation. Brooks was set to go to trial for thirteen counts of rape at the time of his death. He was 73 years old.

Mick Jagger forms supergroup

What do you get when you put Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart, Damian Marley, Joss Stone and A.R. Rahman in a room? Urdu-reggae-soul? Rasta-Bolly-Brit? We’ll all find out soon enough when the supergroup, dubbed Super Heavy, drops their LP in September.


Rock Muses – The Women Who Inspired The Music

All great artists require some form of inspiration, a spark that drives their work. Inspiration can be found everywhere and, of course, a lot of guys find their inspiration in girls. Let’s take a look at a few of rock’s most notable muses, the women who inspired the songs we love.

Friday, February 25th marked the unfortunate passing of Suze Rotolo. Even if you aren’t sure who she was, you should probably be thanking her for some of the best music of the 20th century. If you care at all about folk music or Dylan’s early recordings then you’ve almost certainly seen her. Rotolo is the young woman locking arms with Bob Dylan on the iconic cover of The Freewheelin Bob Dylan. Rotolo was not some cover model or even a little fling for the young Dylan, mind you. Dylan describes his initial attraction and infatuation with Rotolo in colorful terms, with Suze leaving “his head spinning” and her reminding the young Dylan of a, “Rodin sculpture come to life… a libertine heroine.”

During their courtship, Rotolo is credited with introducing Dylan to the Civil Rights movement and is cited as the inspiration for classics such as “Boots of Spanish Leather” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”. Rotolo and Dylan stayed together for four years before they eventually split, their relationship both passionate and tempestuous. Rotolo rarely talked about her relationship with Dylan after their split. Instead, she focused her energies on Civil Rights, social activism and her own works as an artist for the remainder of her life.

Pattie Boyd is another notable rock muse but she gets extra points for both quality and quantity—Boyd was married to both George Harrison and Eric Clapton for nearly a decade each. Not at the same time, of course. Boyd and Harrison met on the set of The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night when Boyd was cast as a schoolgirl fan in March of 1964. By January of 1966 the pair were married. Not unlike Rotolo, Boyd was an influence on the trajectory her beau’s career. It was her interest in Eastern religions that helped motivate the band to meet with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. However,  Boyd and Harrison’s courtship was quite rocky; Boyd, a model, reportedly attracted the attentions of John Lennon, Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood before her marriage with Harrison crumbled and they divorced in 1974.

Before their marriage ended, George Harrison befriended Eric Clapton and despite the close association they had with one another, Clapton fell in love with and made many advances towards Boyd during this time. Clapton even famously shacked up with Boyd’s younger sister for a time, allegedly using her as a substitute for Pattie. Eventually Clapton and Boyd would wed in 1979 but their relationship was even more rocky due to Clapton’s infidelity and drug addictions. The couple eventually split in 1989 but it’s worth noting that Boyd stayed close with both of her rock star former husbands after their marriages ended. To top it all off, Boyd can also state that she’s the inspiration for songs by both Harrison and Clapton, most notably “Layla” which is regarded as one of the great rock love songs of all time.

Bebe Buell is probably the most prolific of rock and roll muses based on the number of confirmed liaisons she had with prominent rockers, not to mention the speculative hook ups. Buell was in a long-term, open relationship with prog rocker Todd Rundgren through the late ’70s and early ’80s. From her book Rebel Heart: An American Rock ‘n’ Roll Journey, “Todd and I respected each other enough to keep our affairs discreet, and when one was over, we fell back into each other’s arms.”

Around this time period, Bebe can be linked to Elvis Costello (who may or may not have used their relationship for inspiration on Get Happy!! and Blood & Chocolate), Stephen Tyler (Buell is Liv Tyler’s mom) and John Taylor of Duran Duran fame  (we guess because he was in Duran Duran). It’s also alleged that Buell has shacked up with Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Iggy Pop and numerous other rock stars. Buell has even made the claim that Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” is about her, despite the inconvenient truth that the two didn’t know each other when the song was written. However, Buell shouldn’t fret as her place in rock muse history had already been well established. In addition to all of her rock star encounters, she’s the inspiration for the character Penny Lane in Almost Famous. Not too shabby.

High Places

It helps to have friends in high places. And if you don’t have one of those, then a friend-of-a-friend can sometimes do the trick. When California-based artist Adrina Thorpe stepped into the studio to record Halflight & Shadows, she brought with her a team of seasoned musicians whose recording credits span anyone from Mick Jagger, Sting, Justin Timberlake, and Kanye West. Not that Thorpe needs the big guns. On her own she’s a force of nature—a gifted pianist blessed with emotive, ethereal vocals that recall Sarah McLachlan. On the cinematic “Coming Home” a sonorous piano gets some levity with Thorpe’s lilting voice. “Midnight” is darker, heavier stuff—a haunting melody with muffled, syncopated beats and a keening cello. But if you’re looking for a serotonin kick, not a dose of disturbia, put on the dreamy, airborne “Fly Fly Fly” or the teasing “Everything Changes.” With or without her killer session musicians, Thorpe’s music has amazing range. Expect this songbird to fly far.


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