American music has developed in a wide range of genres such as rock, country, R&B and soul. It is the blues that has been sung as the source of all of this music.
The Origins of the Blues
The blues originated as a labor song sung by black slaves in the Deep South in the late 19th century while farming. Then blacks in the Christian faith sang black spirituals and the gospel was born, and labor songs and black spirituals became the source of the blues.
The blues became popular in 1903 when W. C. Handy, on a trip to Mississippi, heard a live blues performance and transcribed it on a sheet of music. Sub-genres such as country blues and regional styles such as Chicago blues were also established.
Features, influence on other genres
Blues is best characterized by the plucked guitar form of singing about loneliness and sadness. Jazz has similar roots and is primarily instrumental. It is based on the 12-bar blues format, with a minor scale called the “blue note scale.”
The genres derived from the blues are representative of American music, including jazz, country, R&B, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll. In other words, it is not an exaggeration to say that the blues is the source and soul of American music and that it laid the foundation of modern music.
In this article, we’d like to introduce you to some recommended movies with such a blues theme.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
A musical comedy film based on the popular NBC show “Saturday Night Club” and starring the Blues Brothers as the main characters. John Belushi, known as the Blues Brothers, and Dan Aykroyd starred in the film.
When Elwood picks up his brother Jake, who has been released from prison, he learns that the orphanage where they grew up is struggling to pay its taxes due to financial difficulties and decides to try to raise the money by playing in a band. The two set out on a journey to find their old band mates, but nothing stands in their way…
Dressed in black sunglasses and all-black coordination, the Blues Brothers are cool in style and performance! In the play, the greats of the R&B and soul world such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles appear, and you can enjoy their performances.
Soul Men (2008)
A road movie starring Samuel L. Jackson and comedian Bernie Mac. The chorus duo The Real Deal follows Lewis and Floyd on their unusual road trip across America.
The legendary soul band Marcus Fuchs & The Real Deal broke up on Marcus’ solo career. Lewis and Floyd started out as a chorus duo, but it didn’t work out and they split up in a fight. When they hear of Marcus’ death, they reunite as a duo to perform at a memorial concert.
This is the posthumous work of Bernie Mac, who was hospitalized with pneumonia during the filming of this film and passed away, and this is a valuable film that also features Samuel L. Jackson’s soul singing. Isaac Hayes, the musician best known for the theme song to the movie “The Black Jaguar,” is cast as himself.
A blues-themed road movie directed by Walter Hill and starring Ralph Macchio. The film is based on the “Crossroads Legend”, in which the real-life blues singer Robert Johnson obtained the skill of “selling his soul to the devil at a crossroads”.
Eugene studied classical guitar at the Juilliard School of Music, but he was more inclined to the blues. When he meets legendary bluesman Willie, he takes Willie’s request to teach him Robert Johnson’s phantom songs if he takes him to the “Crossroads” and travels to Mississippi.
The climax features an epic guitar confrontation between Eugene and Devil Scratch’s minion Jack. And that’s Steve Vai in the role of Jack! In addition, renowned guitarist Rae Cooder provided the music and guitar playing for the play.
Adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name, the film is a success story modeled on the Motown Sound legends’ group The Supremes. The film stars Beyonce Knowles and Jamie Foxx in the lead roles.
Formed in the 1960s by Detroit, Dina, Effie and Laurel, the “Dolly Mets” were auditioning to appear at live music venues. Noticing this, producer Curtis hired the girls as a backing chorus for singer Jimmy.
This film depicts the golden age of the Motown record label, which was born in Detroit, a city of cars. Jennifer Hudson’s soulful singing as Effie, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical, is overwhelming in this masterful musical number of the success story.
Sister Act (1992)
The comedy film that made Whoopi Goldberg’s popularity immovable, and a sequel was made the following year. The film tells the story of Deloris, a club singer who sings in a casino, and the turmoil and reformation that occurs in the convent.
Deloris, a club singer and mistress of Boss Vince, the mobster who runs the Reno area, accidentally witnesses Vince committing a murder. She is protected by the police as a person of interest and will be kept in hiding in the convent until the day of Vince’s trial.
After being appointed leader of the choir at the monastery, Deloris improves her singing skills by adding Motown-style arrangements to the boring and inept singing of the choir. The scene where shy Mary Robert, who had been singing in a small voice until then, sings her solo part in a high voice gives me goosebumps.
Cadillac Records (2008)
A biographical film starring Adrian Brody (The Pianist of the Battlefield) and featuring Beyonce as Etta James, who was also named executive producer of the film. Modeled on the Chicago blues label Chess Records, this film depicts the heyday of the Chicago blues.
In 1947, Leonard Chess, a Polish immigrant who ran a bar in Chicago, hired guitarist Maddy Waters and harmonica player Little Walter to play in his shop. Seeing his customers fascinated by the blues they played, Chess set out to establish a record label.
Chess Records’ main focus was blues and R&B, with stars such as Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf and Etta James. Their music has also influenced 50’s rock and roll.
The Road to Memphis (2003)
One of seven documentaries produced to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Bruce’s birth, “THE BLUES Movie Project”. The film was produced by Martin Scorsese and directed by Richard Pearce.
The two men behind “Woodstock/Three Days of Love, Peace and Music,” which chronicled the rock events of the century, follow in the footsteps of the bluesmen who traveled from Memphis, the mecca of the blues.
The film follows the stage and private lives of legendary bluesmen such as B.B. King, Ike Turner and Bobby Rush, as well as the king of the blues from Beale Street in Memphis. We get into their musicality and their view of the blues.
Sideman: Long Road to Glory (2016)
This documentary looks at the lives of three supporting musicians, or “sidemen,” who supported the music of big blues artists such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.
Pianist Pine Topper Perkins and drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, who has recorded and assisted on stage for Muddy Waters, and guitarist Hubert Sumlin, who served as guitarist for Howlin’ Wolf. Without their support, the music of these big artists wouldn’t be possible.
Big names like Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Joe Perry talk about the appeal of these three sidemen. You will also be able to watch the last interview with the three who passed away in 2011, as well as valuable stage footage of their last performance together.
Take Me to the River (2017)
This documentary follows a project to revive the musical spirit of Memphis in the modern era. In Memphis, the city where soul, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll, born of blues, grew up, the film captures the precious sessions that transcended genres, races and generations.
It’s impressive to see genre-bending giants like Bobby Bland, Skip Pitts, Booker T. Jones and Mavis Staples come together in Memphis and pass on their music to a younger generation of musicians.
The book looks back at the Memphis music scene, including the history of black racism and “Stax Records,” which represents the Memphis soul that produced the likes of Booker T & the MG’s and Otis Redding.
I am the Blues (2015)
This documentary follows the footsteps of some of the greatest musicians from the American South, the birthplace of the blues, including the Louisiana Bayou and the Mississippi Delta. It’s a portrait of the spirit of the blues, its glory and decline, and hope for the future.
Bobby Rush, who won the 2017 Grammy Award for “Best Traditional Blues Album” at the age of 83, and many other blues musicians, such as Barbara Lynn and Henry Gray, who are well known in Japan.
In the film, they talk about the blues in their own words, and there are many rare sessions, including on stage, at local parties and improvised performances in the garden. Canadian director Daniel Cross also produced and wrote the film, which took more than three years to complete.
Here are 10 films that depict the spirit and history of the blues, as well as soul and R&B, in a variety of genres, including fiction, biopics, and documentaries.
The blues has become the source of modern music that has been heard not only in the United States but also around the world. Now the soul of the blues is being sung across races, genres and generations. Please take this opportunity to experience the deep world of the blues.