Pretending to be Legends

In fighting outside your weight class news – A recent Variety article brought news that pop-country performer Taylor Swift would be portraying folk music legend Joni Mitchell in an upcoming movie  adaptation of Sheila Weller’s book “Girls Like Us.” Soon after that I read that pop-folk/pop-country performer Jewel will portray country music legend June Carter Cash in an upcoming Lifetime television movie. Yesterday I saw that Loretta Lynn had announced from the stage of Nashville’s Mother Church of Country Music, the Ryman Auditorium, that she had asked actress and pop-folk performer Zooey Deschanel to portray hey in ‘Coal Miner’s’ musical.

This is like casting Keanu Reeves to play the Buddha oh wait, that happened.

This news reminded me of when I heard that Jack White was appearing with Jimmy Page and The Edge in the movie “It Might Get Loud.” What the hell is he doing at THAT table?”

Here are performers that, despite sales, are clearly punching above their weight class. It’s a classic “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy,” moment except  that instead of acknowledging these lightweights for what they are they are handed a job they are clearly undeserving of.

All due respect to Ms. Loretta, The choice of Deschanel , just like the choices of Swift, Jewel and White before them, is a choice of marketing potential, not musical qualifications. The decision to cast these cultural pee-wees has nothing to do with equivalent talent, it’s about demographic crossover and  getting viewers. As a lover of music, great lasting music, I don’t use the same criteria for assessment for placement in these roles. I immediately evaluate these performers on their work and my conclusion is “no way.” They don’t deserve the instant gravitas to their career that comes with portraying legends clearly out of their league. I have an idea, how about actually writing music that get’s you that cred instead of just playing one on TV.

But that takes a level of musical genius that none of these people possess.


4 Replies to “Pretending to be Legends”

  1. You couldn’t be more right. My questionis, in which of these projects does Sheryl Crow make an appearance?

  2. I’d like to see a list of performers of sufficient stature to portray any of these legends. I’m pretty sure that the only person in Loretta Lynn’s league is Loretta Lynn. Same for Carter and Mitchell.

  3. This is a great article. Great points. And even though I agree with it about 90%, I feel inclined to point out a couple of things.

    1) Taylor Swift has been making a career lately of proving her critics wrong. Her role may be part of a greater effort on her part to mature in her career and continue to offer more substance. Are there better people out there for the part? Of course, but I’m not sure if I feel comfortable betting against Taylor Swift again.

    2) You and your readers may already know this, but Zooey Deshenel is a musician and has a side project with M Ward called “She & Him”. Is it any good? Not in my opinion, but she can play guitar and banjo and sing. Again, this in no way makes her qualified for the part, but some folks may not know she does have some musical inclination and skills.

    The other question you have to ask yourself is sure, these are popular names, but if that helps turn a new generation or the spoon-fed masses on to some cool music legends, is it addition by subtraction?

  4. Very good article. The only thing I might differ with you on is your “It Might Get Loud” analogy. My feeling on that when I first heard of it was “Really? The Edge with Jimmy Page? That’s an odd pairing.” I like the Edge and think he’s got an original style, but I don’t think of him as a “guitar hero.” With Jack White and Jimmy Page, I can see the possibility of a sort of father figure/son bombastic heavy blues rock guitar dynamic going on (and I mean that as a positive thing). Didn’t see the movie, though.

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