The Greatest Rock Biopics: From Hendrix to Guthrie
BIOPICS are problematic at the best of times, but get it right and you can cement a person’s place in history forever. Especially tricky are rock biopics because, half the time, the person or people they celebrate, are still alive. Or at least, they were around not that long and you can remember if they were horrible or not.
However, some rock films are better than the actual careers of the artist they pay tribute to.
Have you seen The Doors film? That’s a daft romp through 60s fluff and nonsense with some hilarious mystical sequences and leather trousers. 10,000% better than actually having to sit down and listen to anything The Doors ever committed to record. We can whip the horses eyes? C’mon! You’d much rather see one of Meg Ryan’s boobs and laugh at Billy Idol in a hippie wig!
With a biopic of Jimi Hendrix due to drop any minute now, played by Andre 3000 from Outkast, it seems like a perfect time to look at some of the finer performances in the oeuvre.
Let us start with the newest and most exciting biopic in a while. ‘All is By My Side’ features Andre Benjamin as the late Hendrix. We knew he was a man who could pull off Hendrix’s wild attire, but the footage doing the rounds shows that Benjamin is more than adept at doing an impression of Jimi. Have a look.
Jamie Foxx’s turn as Ray Charles is, lets be honest here, unlikely to be beaten. Never has anyone managed to completely transform themselves into another human quite like Foxx. And boy, what a voice!
As we know, rock biopics (and rock everything else), is a bit of a sausagefest. Thank god then, that someone decided to get Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning and get them heading up one of the most interesting and fun girl rock groups in history! Of course, the fact they were women shouldn’t matter because, in this case, ‘Cherry Bomb’ is better than anything 99% of any rock band could come up with… but there’s something extra brilliant about the tale of outlaw women in the world of rock.
Some have said that ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ is a rather lop-sided film – either too harsh on Ike Turner or not nearly truthful enough with the way he was, but one thing is undeniably – Angela Bassett’s turn as Tina Turner is absolutely believable and wonderful. In this film, we see Tina at her weakest and strongest and, of course, the tunes throughout are astonishing!
Johnny Cash/June Carter
Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as The Man In Black is a thing to treasure. However, this is equally a film – if not moreso – about June Carter. Part of one of music’s dynasties and one of the toughest women in the business, Reese Witherspoon acts the socks off Phoenix, who himself is no slouch.
It is remarkably just how little there is in the way of hip hop biopics, given that a lot of people in the world of hip hop have got lives more remarkable than a lot of fiction. The story of Biggie Smalls is one of the most fascinating, given that we all know how it ended. In ‘Notorious’, we’ve got one of the best films about rap music there is.
You may remember David Carradine as Kane from Kung Fu and from his pivotal turn in Kill Bill. However, once upon a time, he played ace protest singer, Woody Guthrie. From the clip below, you’ll also hear that he did a reasonable impression of the great man too! Nice beard as well.
Anton Corbijn did a great job making a chronicle of Joy Division and, most importantly, shining a light on the story of singer Ian Curtis. Sam Riley’s performance as the late frontman is a thing to behold too.