City Beat: Movie soundtracks gateways to music

City Beat: Movie soundtracks gateways to music

October 25th, 2012 by Barry Courter in Life Entertainment

I stumbled across a podcast over the weekend featuring T Bone Burnett on NPR discussing the 10th anniversary of the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack.

He discussed the phenomenal success of the record and its impact on music fans as a gateway record. "O Brother" introduced a lot of people to old-time musicians and songs in ways that are still resonating today.

It got me thinking about other gateway soundtracks. The first in my lifetime was "American Graffiti." When George Lucas released the movie in 1973, the doo-wop bands of the '50s became cool again, and kids everywhere started wearing penny loafers and rolling their jeans up.

"Happy Days" became a hit on TV, and Sha Na Na became big stars. It also helped create the idea for me that most, if not all, music has a pedigree or beginning place.

"Saturday Night Fever" came out in 1977, and it served to both make and break disco. It was simply too popular, and the backlash was almost as big. It did not, however, make me want to dig a little deeper into other disco acts.

That is exactly what "The Blues Brothers" soundtrack did for me and a lot of other people. While the humor of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd was the original attraction, "discovering" John Lee Hooker, Solomon Burke, Donald "Duck" Dunn and Steve Cropper was the bonus. Seeing Ray Charles and Cab Calloway a new way was also cool.

The introduction triggered a backward dig into blues music that eventually led to Robert Johnson. For me, going backward was the way to go. I would not have appreciated Johnson if I'd heard him first.

"The Big Chill" did the same for R&B and soul singers. And it would indirectly save the California raisin industry.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfree or 423-757-6354.