Untapped Melodies: 7 Must-Make Music Biopics – @Signature Reads9 de julho, 2016
Over time, we’ve seen countless films based on the biographies and memories of musicians, including recent portrayals of Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Nina Simone, and Hank Williams. Although biopics can often be too breezy or too overworked, a successful one can make the sounds, outfits, and lifestyle of a favorite artist come alive. Leaving aside the obvious choices like David Bowie or Prince (arguably, it is too soon for those) here are a few books whose adaptation would be worth a trip to the theater.
This Wheel’s on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of The Band by Levon Helm and Stephen Davis
Yes, there is a documentary about drummer and vocalist Levon Helm already, but we’re still jonesing for more. The Band went from Bob Dylan’s backup to one of the most influential groups of the sixties, and Levon’s story isn’t just a look at their growing pains, but also a larger testimony about the journey of American music. Martin Scorsese filmed The Band’s “final performance” in “The Last Waltz,” but there was so much more than what was seen on the screen. A biopic could offer the no-holds-barred honesty and perspective that Helm’s book provides. What we really want is more of Levon’s voice: singing, storytelling, or otherwise.
Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir by Cyndi Lauper and Jancee Dunn (contributor)
Lauper’s memoir truly represents her unique personality. Although her writing is more conversational than literary, it could work well if guided into a film script. Most readers shy away from this style of writing, but those who stay are entranced by its content. If a film is able to capture the path that leads Lauper from an abusive home to waitressing to music to activism, in a way that speaks true to her unapologetic self, we could have a colorful, fun, and touching gem of a movie on our hands.
Get in the Van: On the Road With Black Flag by Henry Rollins
Get in the Van, made up of notes from author and band member Henry Rollins’s on-the-road diary, is filled with serious edge. Rollins is a great writer, but a film might be able to cut out some of the dragging bits or redundant self-loathing comments that come with being a collection of journal entries. The story works because it is a coming-of-age tale amplified by 1980s punk rock, and a ferocious display of leaving it all out on the stage (or at least in the van). A film would have to tread carefully not to fall into the “woe-is-me” trope or become a parody of the subculture it represents, but it could capture the tour life in an artistic and raw way.
Clapton: The Autobiography by Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton is a bit of an enigma, a hit-maker with an extreme dark streak, the man with later albums your dad loves, and early albums musicians worship. Clapton’s personal history is one of a man grappling with incredible talent and self-destructive behavior. From obsessions over clothing, to family tragedies, to addictions, recovery, and back again, this memoir is an honest glimpse at an icon’s trials and tribulations. With the right actor playing Clapton, it could be a dramatic but moving film about battling the demons that only come with massive success.
The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Mick Mars, Nikki Sixx, and Neil Strauss
Mötley Crüe is one of the quintessential 1980s bad-boy heavy metal rock bands, so what we really need is the quintessential rock biopic; a film that leaves you feeling a little dirty – and a lot satisfied – for watching it. What’s here is more than just a series of ragers and girls (girls, girls), but the gut-wrenching stories of four band-mates who lived life hard – and experienced consequences and struggles along the way. The book is brutally honest, but full of humor and, in its own way, heart. If a film can capture each musician’s unique story and voice it could be a success – audiences will just have to be prepared to feel a little disturbed, and maybe even disgusted with what they see on the screen.
Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye by David Ritz
Divided Soul by David Ritz is compiled from interviews with several other musical icons like Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson, and captures the story of a man whose voice may have been smooth but whose life was anything but. Most are familiar with how Gaye died, but the instability and pain of the artist is less well-known, and should certainly be acknowledged. Rumor has it that actor Jesse L. Martin is starring in a Marvin Gaye film, but we are still holding our collective breath for an official release date announcement.
Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me by Pattie Boyd and Penny Junor
True, Pattie Boyd is not a musician. But the former model, wife of both George Harrison and Eric Clapton, and muse for Harrison’s “Something” and Clapton’s “Layla” and “Wonderful Tonight,” has her share of stories to tell. The book can sometimes float adrift, but that is why the memoir could be a worthwhile film adaptation – there is just so much material. Boyd offers a perspective on these two musical legends that no one else can. Her version may absolutely be solely her own version (who can know for certain) and it is more than a little heartbreaking how these men define, damage, and disrespect her, but the insights into the time period and rock n’ roll lifestyle are a wreck you don’t want to look away from until the last page.
A great film can bring fresh air to a classic musical genius and these stories of struggles on and off the stage deserve a dust-off. As the popularity of musician biopics grow, we can only hope that some of these amazing biographies, or at least one-of-a-kind voices, find their way to the screen.