Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles. Diana Ross as Billie Holiday. Kevin Spacey as Bobby Darin. Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison.
These are just a few of the amazing performances we’ve seen in the movie genre known as the biopic, or biographical film. It’s been around since the beginning of motion pictures, focusing primarily on historical figures, presidents, authors, actors and other celebrities. Biopics on popular music figures first emerged in the late ’50s and early ’60s, with Hollywood treatments of such luminaries as Benny Goodman, Hank Williams and the like. But things didn’t really get rolling until the ’70s, when biopics of Billie Holiday (“Lady Sings the Blues,” 1972), Woody Guthrie (“Bound for Glory,” 1976) and Buddy Holly (“The Buddy Holly Story,” 1979) were nominated for, or won, Academy Awards for the star or the film.
We all say and write things we later regret. We change our minds, we temper our more strident opinions, we gain a little wisdom and rethink our naive viewpoints. We hope for forgiveness regarding our more egregious statements, and we pray that our more regrettable thoughts will be lost with the passage of time.
But for those of us who ever wrote under a byline, well, we must face facts: Everything is still there in print to forever haunt us. (These days, every email/text/twitter remark is apparently saved in data banks forever and ever, so I guess I have a lot of company now.)
From 1979 until 1994, I wrote as a staff writer and freelancer for the Sun Newspapers and Scene Magazine in Cleveland, Ohio, writing reviews of local concert appearances and new album releases. For a rock music fanatic like me, it was a dream job. Not only did I get to see the best bands, from great seats, for free, I was sometimes even paid for my time “working,” with free parking to boot.