Cadillac Records (2008) Poster

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  • In the early 1940s, Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody) struggles to create a record label, at first working in Chicago from the back of his Cadillac, to open the doors for black musicians to record music. And so is born Chess Records,

  • Cadillac Records is based on a screenplay by American film-maker Darnell Martin, also the director of the movie. It is based on the true life story of Leonard Chess, co-founder of the legendary American record label Chess Records. The title comes from the fact that Chess and his brother Phil started selling record albums from the back of their Cadillac.

  • That's Willie Dixon (played by Cedric the Entertainer), an American musician and songwriter credited for writing many of the songs performed by such blues musicians as Muddy Waters (born McKinley Morganfield), Howlin' Wolf (born Howlin' Wolf), and Little Walter Jacobs and such rock-and-roll greats as Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. Dixon's works have since been recorded by such groups as Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Allman Brothers Band, and The Grateful Dead.

  • Besides Willie Dixon, the cast includes Chuck Berry (Yasiin Bey), Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright), Little Walter (Columbus Short), Howlin' Wolf (Eamonn Walker), and Etta James (Beyoncé).

  • Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bo Diddley is not on the cast list.

  • Following are the songs that each of the five featured artists perform:

    Muddy Waters: (1) I'm a Man (written by Elias McDaniel); (2) Country Blues (written by Robert Johnson and McKinley Morganfield); (3) I Can't Be Satisfied (written by McKinley Morganfield); (4) Forty Days and Forty Nights (written by Bernard Roth); and (5) I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man (written by Willie Dixon).

    Little Walter: (1) Juke (written by Walter Jacobs); (2) My Babe (written by Willie Dixon); and (3) Last Night (written by Walter Jacobs).

    Howlin' Wolf: Smokestack Lightnin' (written by Chester Burnett).

    Chuck Berry: (1) Nadine (Is It You?); (2) Maybellene; (3) No Particular Place to Go; and (4) Promised Land (all songs written by Chuck Berry).

    Etta James: (1) All I Could Do Was Cry (written by Billy Davis, Berry Gordy, and Gwen Gordy); (2) At Last (written by Harry Warren and Mark Gordon); (3) Trust in Me (written by Milton Ager, Ned Weaver, and Jean Schwartz); (4) I'd Rather Go Blind (written by Billy Foster and Ellington Jordan); and (5) Once in a Lifetime (written by Beyonce Knowles and others).

  • There is the suggestion of a love match, but the only romantic scene between Chess and James is a kiss that ends abruptly when Muddy Waters walks in the door.

  • That's called "bottleneck" or "slide" guitar. A bottleneck is typically fashioned from detaching the neck from a bottle of wine. A "slide" can also be made from any metal tube, e.g. the tube that holds a roll of bathroom tissue.

  • Remember that this movie is fictionalized. Little Walter was known to be an alcoholic with a short temper, but the shooting scenario was made up for the movie.

  • Some critics say yes, whereas others say no. Suffice to say that no suits or charges were ever filed against Leonard Chess (or his brother Phil, whose character does not appear in the movie). Beyond that, it is not within the scope of a movie FAQ page to draw conclusions.

  • Once Leonard realizes that, thanks to his backing, black musicians can now write their own tickets, he arranges to sell Chess Records. When Etta learns about the sale, she sings her final song to him, tears in her eyes. In the middle of the song, Leonard walks out. He goes to his office, packs up the photos on his wall. trashes the room, and leaves, tears in his eyes. As he is driving down the street, he suffers a fatal heart attack. When Muddy tells Etta that Leonard didn't leave a will, she reveals that Leonard gave her the deed to her house just that morning. "He loved me," she concludes. In the final scenes, Dixon and Muddy fly to London where their airplane is met by scores of reporters, and a red carpet is laid at their feet. In his final narration, Dixon explains how the royalties from his songs allowed him to buy a recording studio where they continued to support musicians, be they rhythm and blues, rock and roll, or hip-hop. The movie concludes with a list of the performers and the years in which they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Chuck Berry (1986), Leonard Chess (1987), Muddy Waters (1987), Howlin' Wolf (1991), Etta James (1993), Willie Dixon (1994), and Little Walter (2008).

  • Just before the final credits, the film reveals the current whereabouts of some of the characters featured in the movie. Those who have passed on include: (1) Little Walter [d.1968], buried without a tombstone; a year later, his fans bought him one. (2) Leonard Chess [d.1969]. (3) Howlin' Wolf [d.1976]; Eric Clapton paid for his tombstone. (4) Muddy Waters [d.1983] is buried next to Geneva, who died 10 years earlier. (5) Willie Dixon [d.1992], and Etta James [d. 2012]. The only one still with us (as of this writing) is Chuck Berry, who successfully sued The Beach Boys for the rights to Surfin' USA and is still a featured performer.


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