In Honor of Uncle Lou's Big Comeback: 7 Cautionary-Tale Movies About Singers
02.11.14 by Ryan
The new episode of The Capones sees Uncle Lou trying to revive his singing career, which culminates in a public performance at the Green Mill Lounge, an Uptown Chicago bar that was frequented by Al Capone. While Uncle Lou is no stranger to dangerous professions, we started to think of movies that revealed the pitfalls of a professional music career. We should warn, however, that you just might learn something from our list of cautionary tale movies about singers.
Family, Food, and... Singing?
This 1957 movie has a real-life connection to Al Capone. Frank Sinatra plays Chicago crooner Joe E. Lewis, one of Capone's favorite singers at the Green Mill, which was partly owned by Capone's lieutenant Jack "Machine Gun" McGurn. When Lewis refused to renew his contract to sing exclusively at the club, he is treated to "the Chicago way," which means McGurn slashed and cut Lewis' throat and face. Unable to continue singing, Lewis starts a second career as a comedian. Capone supposedly felt bad about the unsanctioned attack, but the movie — and the real-life event it's based on — serves as a lesson that Uncle Lou may already know: even when you're a singer, there can be a price for doing business.
Aspiring singers like Uncle Lou often turn to competition shows like American Idol, the show that is the blatant backdrop of this 2006 comedy starring Mandy Moore, complete with Hugh Grant playing a Simon Cowell-esque host. However, lurking behind the scenes is a Jihadist plot to blow up the show's upcoming guest, a George W. Bush-eque President played by Dennis Quaid, which threatens to destroy everyone associated with the show. While Amercian Dreamz is clearly a farce about American Idol and the Bush Administration, the lesson is clear: singing competition shows are a deathtrap.
Detroit rapper Eminem's debut movie role has him starring as a kid from Detroit who — get this — wants to be a rapper. What's in his way? An alcoholic mother (Kim Basinger), a cheating girlfriend (the late Brittany Murphy) and a gang of rappers that want to kill him. But, don't worry, the real Slim Shady finds a way to stand up (rimshot, please).
Now, we're not suggesting that Uncle Lou should try Detroit's freestyle rapping underground if his singing career doesn't pan out, though we wouldn't stop if him if he did. 8 Mile is about pursuing your dreams in spite of your situation, though, as happens to Eminem in the movie, it doesn't come without getting beat up, cheated on and yelled at. Fair warning.
Set in The Capones' hometown of Chicago, the cult classic follows Joliet Jake (John Belushi) and Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) as go on a "mission from God" to save their orphanage by getting their band back together for a fund-raising performance. Sounds simple enough, however, along the way, Jake and Elwood are pursued by the police, an angry country band and a spurned fiance, among others. No matter how destined a music career may seem, beware of potential jail sentences, rocket launchers and large bar tabs.
Of course, even a successful career in music can take a downturn. Such is the case for aging Otis "Bad" Blake (Jeff Bridges), who was once a country music star but is now spending his days touring small town bars. Battling alcoholism and his own pride, Bad eventually has to confront his demons and make peace with his career, deciding whether the pursuit of fame is more important than earning a living. Uncle Lou may have the same choice to make, should he miss out on worldwide fame, but that's only if his singing career doesn't bring him the acclaim.
When fame does reach Uncle Lou (as it assuredly will), he will have to worry about obsessed fans. As portrayed by the late, great Whitney Houston in this 1992 romantic thriller, some singers get so famous that their fans want to destroy them. Fortunately for Houston, she has a dedicated bodyguard (Kevin Costner) who stops at nothing to protect her. Of course, romance then blooms, and therein lies the lesson: when hiring a bodyguard, be mindful that you might fall in love with them.
The grandaddy of all cautionary tales is this 1984 mockumentary, which depicts a British rock band having a horrible tour that includes almost every potential pitfall for professional musicians: a dwindling fanbase, poor promotion, lousy album art, bossy girlfriends and dwarfs stomping on tiny Stonehenge props. If there's a cautionary tale for Uncle Lou to watch, it's this one, as long as he doesn't enjoy it so much he doesn't pay attention to its lessons.