Ignored Obscured Restored
In May of 2020, I started a series of posts under the theme of Rock Music in Films. I notched eight posts in the series through May 2021. But the series isn’t complete. I have a few more ideas and today I resume after nine months – this time featuring films as vehicles for rock stars.
This idea was “invented” by Elvis Presley. The Beatles and other British Invasion groups took advantage of the medium to enhance their popularity. But those were all covered in earlier installments of the series.
Take note – my idea of films as vehicles for rock stars doesn’t include movies that simply star rock musicians. The film has to feature their music as a key component. So, Madonna’s Desperately Seeking Susan and David Bowie’s Labyrinth are out. Bob Dylan’s music was critical to Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, but his acting role was too insignificant to qualify as a vehicle for him. That one’s out. Mick Jagger starred in Performance and sang the excellent “Memo From Turner” but that’s his only song on the soundtrack. Out.
So, what films do meet my criteria? One great example is The Harder They Come (1972), starring Jimmy Cliff. I know, this film features Reggae music not rock. But by my definition, Cliff is a rock star!
The title tune is terrific, but the best song on the soundtrack is “Many Rivers to Cross.”
“MRtC” has a gospel feel and an amazing vocal performance. It is even more spectacular when you consider the legend that it was recorded in one take at the end of a session where the backing musicians had never heard the song before! In Wikipedia, Cliff is quoted as saying “I started singing, the band came in, and that was it. Once. That was it.”
Another super film that was a vehicle for a rock star was Prince’s Purple Rain (1984). I know, this film features funk and R&B music, not rock. But by my definition, Prince is a rock star!
The title tune is terrific, but the best song on the soundtrack is “When Doves Cry.”
“WDC” was written as a metaphor (doves being the bird of peace) for the dysfunction in relationships – in this case, the discord between his mother and father coming full circle in his own relationship.
How can you just leave me standing
Alone in a world that’s so cold? (So cold)
Maybe I’m just too demanding
Maybe I’m just like my father, too bold
Maybe you’re just like my mother
She’s never satisfied (she’s never satisfied)
Why do we scream at each other?
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry
“WDC” received a wonderful cover by Patti Smith. You can’t keep a great song down.
The underappreciated One Trick Pony (1980), by Paul Simon, was also a film vehicle for a rock star. I know, many of you don’t consider Paul Simon a rock musician. But by my definition, he is a rock star!
The key song on the soundtrack is “Late in the Evening.”
Steve Gadd’s drum groove and the spicy Cuban horn charts (arranged by Dave Grusin) drive it. No one would dare cover it!
Enjoy… until next week.