10 fantastic music biopics that you may not know

Films you might have missed but need to see.

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DRAMA No. 3

BLAZE (2018)

Speaking of Ethan Hawke, a few years after starring in Born to Be Blue, he took to the director’s chair to tell the story of Blaze Foley, a lost hero of the country singer/songwriter community. Hawke, who is himself a musician, had already directed a documentary about reclusive classical pianist Seymour Bernstein four years earlier. In that movie, Hawke could not seem to resist inserting himself into the story. He does a much better job of remaining detached in Blaze, despite having a brief cameo.

Foley was a large man with a soft heart who could never seem to catch a break. He was barely recognized outside his small circle of friends during his lifetime. Bad luck seemed to follow him like a stray dog, right up until the time of his death, when he was shot and killed while trying to intervene in a dispute between a friend and the friend’s son. Despite that hard life, Foley’s songs show off his outstanding warmth for the common folk, along with some laugh-out-loud wit.

Singer Ben Dickey, whose only acting had been a small role in another Hawke film a dozen years earlier, does an outstanding job as Foley, and Hawke called on a host of friends for cameos, including Sam Rockwell, Steve Zahn, and director Richard Linklater. Alia Shawkat plays Foley’s lover, and Charlie Sexton plays Townes Van Zandt, one of Foley’s close friends who nonetheless displayed a degree of callousness to Foley’s struggles.

There’s a great story associated with Foley that is not part of the movie. John Prine did not know who Foley was when he heard his most famous song “Clay Pigeons.” Prine loved it and wanted to record it – which he did in 2005. When he said that had never heard of Blaze Foley, he was told by a friend that he in fact did know him. Prine knew him as “Deputy Dawg,” a big old friendly dude Prine occasionally hung out with at clubs and bars back in the mid-70s. Prine had no idea Deputy Dawg had the wherewithal to write a song as good as “Clay Pigeons.” Seems that people overlooked Blaze Foley his entire life.