Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Oh Baby That's What I Like!

Today was actually the 50th Anniversary of the tragic airplane crash that look the lives of 50's rock and roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardson aka "The Big Bopper", popularly known as "The Day the Music Died". While I don't have has intimate a connection to this event as Don McLean and his generation of retirement age baby boomers (even my parents were barely alive for this), I still feel a pang of melancholy over the enormity of the disaster and how much potential was lost. Through the hindsight of history, American Rock and Roll lost on that fateful, chilly night in Iowa: an all time iconic innovator (Holly), a racial barrier defying young star (Valens), and a larger than life novelty character (Bopper). If you put that in today's relative hip hop terms it may be something like losing Lil' Wayne, Lupe Fiasco, and Soulja Boy respectively in some freak touring accident.

While there have been plenty of musician related airplane fatalities from Otis Redding to Aaliyah (sort of makes you wonder why so many hit artists prefer travel by unreliable single engine planes over let's say a commercial jet; with the exception of former Billboard #1 artist Kyu Sakamoto), there has never been a fatal pop music disaster of this magnitude (we did however dodge a close one, when Travis Barker and DJ AM managed somehow to become the sole survivors their plane crash.

While all three late artists are forever tied to the whole epic tragedy of the "Day the Music Died" mythos that has grown, the Bopper has gotten the slightly shorter of end of the stick when it comes to respect. I guess it isn't all that unexpected considering the Bopper was just a goofy novelty artist (remember he's the Soulja Boy) while Holly was one of the pioneering giants of early rock and Ritchie Valens will be remembered for his youth and limitless potential. While I agree with that view and acknowledge that both were superior artists overall to the Bopper, I still have to admit in terms of pure enjoyment, the Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace" is the best single song out of all three artists. It's one of the most unique songs in all of rock history; a silly blend of early rock and rockabilly mixed with the subtle bawdiness of the Bopper's crude, booming 50s phone sex routine (where would R. Kelly's later career be without the Bopper's pioneering efforts?). That single alone shows that the Bopper was a formidable artist in his own right and that it wasn't just dumb luck (or bad luck depending on the perspective) that he will be forever associated with the other two Hall of Fame icons.

The Bopper's smaller stature in the eyes of history also stems in significant part from the fact that no one has made a major motion picture based on his life. Buddy Holly had the "The Buddy Holly Story" with the title role played by the improbable Gary Busey (who gained an equally improbable "Best Actor" Oscar nomination), while Ritchie Valens had "La Bomba" which gave Lou Diamond Phillips his best known role and Los Lobos a number one single. While the Bopper had been represented as side characters in both films, no single feature film captures the man himself. Seeing as how a proper Big Bopper Biopic would go a long way in attempting to close the respectability gap between the big man and the other two stars, here are five potential candidates for the star making role of the Bopper (not counting his son "Big Bopper Jr" who has obviously long go given up on having any sort of independent life of his own and devoted his whole existence to being an exploitative living tribute to his father):

Kevin James
He is currently the star of the biggest hit film of 2009 thus far, so has definitely proven that he has what it takes to carry a movie as a leading man. The guy fits the body type, age maybe a bit off (he's 43, Bopper died at 29) but it doesn't appear noticeable, and they're both comedic talents. James has yet to find an opportunity to demonstrate if he has any real singing talent so they'll have to check on that. I think motivation wise, he would be pretty down with the whole production. It'd be a great way to expand his range and biopics are traditionally one of the juiciest of Oscar bait roles.

Steve Harwell
The Smash Mouth frontman can at the very least be able to sing at a comparable level and actually has almost two full decades of on stage rock and roll experience. Acting wise, aside from is cameo with Smash Mouth at the end of "Rat Race", he is pretty new to the whole thing. They'll have to see how difficult it is to make a transition from playing a rock star in real life to a rock star in a feature film. In terms of looks, he's got the heavyset features down and he's two years younger than Kevin James (42), which always helps. He also seems to have a vintage oldies rock vibe to him.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Casting Hoffman would mean that "Untitled Big Bopper Project" would not be fucking around about competing for some major award show hardware. He's definitely by far the most talented and established potential choice for the role. When he loses this year's Best Supporting Oscar to Heath Ledger and possibly sees Sean Penn rack up another Best Actor statue for "Milk", he'll be itching for a ride back on the Oscar biopic gravy train. He might have to bulk up a little bit and maybe brush up on his singing, but the guy's a consummate pro. At age 41 he's also a bit old but manageable.

Elden Henson
Probably most well known to many for his childhood role as hockey goon Fulton Reed from the Mighty Ducks Series, along with later supporting roles in teen flicks like "She's All That" and "Idle Hands", Henson actually has some good qualities going for him. He's got a similar build, he's by far the closest in terms of age (he's currently 31), and while he's young the guy's a seasoned actor who has been in the game for 20 years. He definitely has the least sizzle to his name compared to the others but maybe that's just the type of under the radar casting that this production needs. Who knows, the role may make him the next Jackie Earle Haley.

Jon Tester
Okay, so perhaps the junior Democratic senator from Montana may be an extreme dark horse candidate. He's 52 years old. He has absolutely no acting experience nor rock and roll experience (although apparently he was briefly a music teacher). He probably has absolutely no inclination to get into acting. He doesn't have a middle, index, and ring finger on his left hand from a childhood accident. However, you can't deny he's got a killer Big Bopper flattop haircut!

1 comment:

  1. Victor: Would you care to cross post this on our site
    and please feel welcome to be a regular contributor.