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[The CHIRP Radio Movie Collection documents our favorite movies that feature music or musicians.]
The Blues Brothers (1980)
The Plot: Two brothers (played by Dan Akroyd and John Belushi) put their old band back together in a quest to raise money to save the orphanage where they were raised.
This is a movie that remains one of the more successful film adaptations of a “Saturday Night Live” sketch. Unlike most most movies that started out as SNL ideas, this one feels like an actual film put together by actual film makers. The movie is elevated by several effectively staged stunts and car chases as the Brothers tear their way from Joliet prison to Chicago’s Loop while being chased by everyone from highway patrolmen to neo-Nazis.
What holds everything together, though, is the music provided by a cast of greats including John Lee Hooker (Blues), Cab Calloway (Jazz), James Brown and Aretha Frankin (Soul), and Ray Charles (American Music). There’s even some Country and early Rock and Roll thrown in for good measure.
While Akroyd and Belushi have always been on record as deeply respectful of the music that fueled their duo’s persona, this movie could be a good conversation starter about issues of cultural appropriation in music and entertainment in general. On a different level, though, it’s just a fun ride with minimal dialogue, a straightforward story, and excellent music to listen to. Plus, it’s always interesting to see what 1970s Chicago looked like when being stormed by the National Guard.
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