Hit That Note: Inspiring Music Biopics With Equally Stellar Tunes
Thanks to the success of Bohemian Rhapsody, audiences can’t get enough of music biopics. The film inspired by the life and times of Freddie Mercury became the highest-grossing biopic of all time when it made USD900mil at the worldwide box office. Rami Malek, who played Mercury, won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the role and Queen even found a whole new generation of fans through the film’s popularity.
Later this year, music fans can expect the release of other music biopics such as Rocketman starring Taron Egerton as Elton John and Judy (based on the life of Hollywood legend and Over The Rainbow singer Judy Garland). Other music biopics in production include a Celine Dion biopic (The Power Of Love), and Baz Luhrmann is attached to an Elvis Presley project. While fans wait for these music biopics to be released, here’s a list for the viewing and listening pleasure of the bonafide music biopic aficionado.
In this film, Jennifer Lopez took on the role of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, a Tejano pop star whose album Selena Live! received the Grammy award for Best Mexican-American album in 1994. Selena (released in 1997) portrayed how the singer-dancer became an inspiring icon in the Latin music scene. A popular scene in this film depicted Selena receiving bad treatment from an arrogant assistant in the mall who failed to recognize the singer and assumed she couldn’t afford to pay for a pricey dress. The situation changed when fans began mobbing Selena for autographs in the store.
Sadly, Selena’s life and career was tragically cut short in 1995 after she was shot to death by Yolanda Saldivar, a woman who was in charge of her fan club. Viewers will definitely be moved by a poignant scene where Selena talks about her unfulfilled hopes and dreams, including one on starting a family with her husband Chris Perez.
Listen to this: Selena Movie Soundtrack which features Selena staples like “Dreaming Of You”, “I Could Fall In Love” and “Where Did The Feeling Go”?
Straight Outta Compton
The rise and fall of controversial hip hop group NWA is detailed in this Academy Award-nominated film directed by F. Gary Gray, whose notable works include blockbuster hit The Fate Of The Furious and music videos like TLC’s Waterfalls. Straight Outta Compton depicts how NWA (prominent members include Dr Dre, Ice Cube and the late Eazy-E) rose to prominence and pushed the once-maligned gangsta rap into mainstream music consciousness. Critics praised the film for its strong performance (Ice Cube’s own son O’Shea Jackson Jr played him) and solid storytelling.
Viewers will no doubt love how the group channeled their hard life experiences like being harassed by police and surviving adolescence in a dangerous neighbourhood into music that quite literally, changed the world. The film also depicts how the group copes with the loss of key member Eazy-E, who died in 1995. Plus, watch out for the depiction of other hip hop luminaries like Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg and controversial producer Suge Knight in Straight Outta Compton.
Listen to this: Straight Outta Compton (Music From The Motion Picture) for hip hop masterpieces like “F**k Tha Police”, “Boyz-N-The-Hood” and “We Want Eazy”.
La Vie en Rose
The story of how Edith Piaf went from a child who grew up in a brothel to becoming a legendary singer-actress is definitely made for a remarkable music biopic. Marion Cotillard’s portrayal as Piaf was widely-acclaimed where she received not only an Oscar, but also a Bafta, Golden Globe and Cesar Award for the role. The film explored the many highs of Piaf’s life as a celebrated performer to the excruciatingly painful moment where she lost her lover Marcel Cerdan who died in a tragic plane crash.
La Vie en Rose visualised that aspect in Piaf’s life with a one-take four-minute-long scene that is both stunning and emotionally heartbreaking at the same time. One thing is for sure, viewers will never stop humming Piaf’s signature romantic number La Vie en Rose after watching this film.
Listen to this: Can’t get enough of Edith Piaf? Indulge in this album featuring 23 stunning numbers such as “La Vie en Rose”, “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” and “La Foule”.
Walk The Line
Method actor Joaquin Phoenix played country music legend Johnny Cash in this 2005 biopic. Unlike most actors who lip sync the songs of the notable entertainer they portray in films, Phoenix actually sang in his own voice. He impressively performed nine songs in the film, including Cash’s signature numbers like “Ring Of Fire”, “It Ain’t Me Babe” (a duet with Reese Witherspoon who played wife June Carter) and “I Walk The Line”.
The film Walk The Line depicts Cash’s upbringing as a farm boy haunted by the death of a young sibling, to his debut as a rockabilly artiste in 1957 and his subsequent rise to stardom. Viewers will also learn about his tumultuous relationships and struggle with drug addiction.
Listen to this: Go crazy with Cash’s live album, At Folsom Prison, which served as an important backdrop in the film to Ring Of Fire: The Best Of Johnny Cash, which features the titular “Ring Of Fire”. Then, listeners may want to wrap things up with American IV: The Man Comes Around which was released in 2002 when Cash was 70. Listen to Cash’s unforgettable cover of “Hurt”, a song originally performed by Nine Inch Nails.
Back in 2004, actor Jamie Foxx told the New York Times that he would have his eyes glued shut for around 14 hours a day just to play visually-impaired musician Ray Charles. He initially suffered from panic attacks in the first two weeks of filming. Eventually, he got accustomed to how Ray Charles had lived his entire life.
Foxx’s intense dedication to the role earned him an Oscar for Best Actor. Charles, who lost his vision at age seven, is credited for pioneering the soul music genre and was an influence to the likes of Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley and Billy Joel. Ray showcased a man who triumphed over the many adversities in life to become one of the greatest performers of all time.
Listen to this: Go with this Ray Charles compilation featuring songs like “I’ve Got A Woman”, “Hallelujah I Love Her So” and “Drown In My Own Tears”. Then there’s Genius Loves Company where Charles performed stunning duets with Norah Jones, Willie Nelson and Van Morrison. The album was released two months after Charles’ death in 2004. It went on to win eight Grammy awards, including Album Of The Year and Record Of The Year.
Cover Credit: AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo