i watched cadillac records (2009) last night and was moved and inspired by its portrayal of the rise of chess records in chicago. the film centres on the transition from sharecropper music, “race music” and blues to cross-over and rock and roll. the reviews were mixed and many completely missed the point of the film. it’s not a documentary. it’s a film that paints a broad picture of that time in music history. it’s about segregation. about a time when black musicians changed the face of music and were unrecognised for it until, sometimes decades, later. about white artists/record industry folks taking or stealing that creativity and becoming rich and famous in the process.
the music is astounding. the studio scenes, where leonard chess changed the way the music was recorded, are incredible. the film captures the intense pain and suffering experienced by such greats as muddy waters, little walter, howlin’ wolf, etta james and chuck berry. how that pain translated into brilliance. how they didn’t just play the blues, they lived it. they were the blues.
the credit for the birth of rock and roll lies very firmly with these musicians and countless others (many that remain unknown). there will never be another time like this and it’s essential that we know about it. that the next generations know about it. it’s scary that young people have never heard of some of these artists and how ignorant they are of anything outside the mainstream charts.
you don’t have to like the blues but you have to know about it.
watch this film with your eyes on the bigger picture.
and your heart in the right place.