Rhino Factoids: The Blues Brothers, Brother Ray, and the Queen of Soul
36 years ago today, Jake and Elwood Blues first arrived in movie theaters, and while they left no end of carnage in their wake, at least they delivered some sweet R&B sounds in the process.
At a budget of $30 million, The Blues Brothers definitely wasn’t what you’d call a small Hollywood picture, and it started out with a number of strikes against, not least of which was the fact that the screenplay was written by Dan Aykroyd, who literally had never even read a screenplay before. As such, what he turned in was less a screenplay than a book – it was 324 pages long – and was described in a Vanity Fair look at the film’s creation as having been written in a format that was “more like free verse.” In Aykroyd’s defense, he was knew it was a little unwieldy, a fact he played up when he submitted his final draft bound with the cover of the Los Angeles Yellow Pages, but after a laborious two months of work, director John Landis edited the thick tome into a usable screenplay.
Ah, but you don’t care about these details. You want to know about the music.
Here’s what we wrote about Aretha Franklin’s appearance in the film on the Queen of Soul’s last birthday:
“From what we can tell, the only real difference between Ms. Franklin and Mrs. Murphy is that Ms. Franklin isn’t actually married to Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy. In other words, even though she took on the role in The Blues Brothers in 1980 and didn’t portray the character again until 18 years later, we’re pretty sure that picking up the part again in 1998 for Blues Brothers 2000 was like riding a bike. Franklin lip-synched her performance in The Blues Brothers, something she didn’t have a tremendous amount of experience in doing, which necessitated several takes. It might’ve taken longer than director John Landis had planned, but you certainly can’t argue with the results: whenever you ask a fan of the film to name their favorite performance, Aretha is invariably right near the top of their list.”
As for Ray Charles, he seems to be having the time of his life in the film, but he was having an even better time after The Blues Brothers became a box office hit: younger fans dug his performance and started paying attention to his music again. As a musician, moments don’t come much more beneficial than that.