Cover Image: The Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers

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An insightful and engaging dive into the barmy world of the Blues Brothers. Daniel de Vise digs deep and comes up with the goods in this compelling and thoughtful piece. A worthy tribute to the icons of comedy music.

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The Blues Brothers by Daniel de Visé will be a different book to different people and it almost entirely depends on how much you love John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and the move The Blues Brothers.

If you've never heard of any of them or the movie, then this is not a book for you. While de Visé writes a well researched and competent book, it relies heavily on nostalgia for the main protagonists. You would be better off just watching The Blues Brothers because I am part of the second group who loves everything about the movie.

For my fellow fanatics, de Visé provides plenty of behind the scenes information and an extended biography of Belushi. Aykroyd gets much less attention throughout the narrative and very often the book feels completely overtaken by Belushi's drug habit. This is probably appropriate as Belushi's drug habit overtook everything in his life and the people around him. I felt de Visé gives Belushi a bit too much grace. While we are luckily, as a society, moving away from vilifying addicts, it very much sounds like Belushi could be very difficult without the intervention of booze and drugs. Also, de Visé takes quite a while to get to the actual Blues Brothers as both an act and a movie. While there are quick glimpses, they only enter the narrative permanently almost midway through the book.

However, even with these issues, there is plenty to capture the attention of fans. The author did plenty of research and cares tremendously about his subjects. That will be enough to keep fanatics happy.

(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and Grove Atlantic.)

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"What kind of music do you usually have here?"
"Oh we got both kinds. We got country AND western."

The reason I picked that movie quote to put at the top is because it was my dad's favourite, he'd always burst out laughing, and since he's the one who introduced me to the masterpiece that is The Blues Brothers it seemed fitting.

I have loved this movie since I was a baby, it's still my absolute favourite to this day and nothing will ever top it. So you can imagine how excited I was to read this and how much it means to me.

This is not only about the movie though, we get to see John & Dan's childhoods, their comedy beginnings, how they eventually met to create the best duo fueled by real friendship...and we also see the not-so-sunny parts of John's life (aka the struggle with drugs and how it affected all of his relationships, from personal to work).

I knew a bit about their lives, but never really dug into them as much, so a lot of this was new info for me. I had no idea they were on SNL!!! Though to be fair, that's not really a thing that was broadcasted in my country, and I wasn't even alive back then so I think I'm forgiven. I'd like to go back and watch the skits featuring them though, they seem so fun.

Also, seeing some other famous people (Meat Loaf!) during the comedy days was like a crossover I never knew I needed.

They start getting the band together at 40 something %, and I won't lie, I was smiling from ear to ear during those parts. And how everyone should have a middle name like Matt Guitar Murphy, I could visualise that scene perfectly.

Then we finally get to the making of the movie, and boy, was that a chaos-filled endeavor. I would expect nothing less. I loved the behind the scenes look at how it all went down. And, I knew it was expensive, but...oh my. WORTH IT THOUGH!

Even if it wasn't a good movie (obviously it's amazing), it would've been worth it just for the revival of so many blues musicians' careers.

The book also covers Dan & John's acting adventures, John's tragic death, the Blues Brothers sequel...really it covers everything you could imagine. At this point I'm surprised it wasn't even longer.

It (the ebook) ends at 87%, the rest is the acknowledgements and notes, so I wish I had a physical copy for a better notes overview. I'll be getting one, don't you worry.

There's a lot of music mentioned between the pages, so my advice is to have your music app of choice open and ready, and when a song or artist is mentioned you go and listen for an even more immersive experience. And if you're listening on audiobook well...pause it or something I don't know.

This was so well researched, I'm looking forward to reading the author's book on B. B. King now too. And I really wish my dad was still alive so I could share The Blues Brothers: An Epic Friendship, the Rise of Improv, and the Making of an American Film Classic with him.

*Thank you to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

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The Blues Brothers is a well balanced bio-retrospective and history of the iconic film and associated culture by Daniel de Visé. Due out 19th March 2024 from Grove Atlantic, it's 400 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats.

The book is absolutely packed full of reminiscence, history, and background; from the original Not Ready for Primetime troupe (Ackroyd, Belushi, Radner, Murray and the others) to the culture of improv comedy, the whole zeitgeist of the early 80s, and the chaos and drug use, and the filming of the Blues Brothers.

It's not just about the film, and for all folks who have come to adore it in the nearly 45 years since it hit the theaters, there are also lots of takeaways for fans of 80s culture, rhythm & blues, and the actors and musicians and their wider circle of influence.

Four and a half stars. Definitely one for public library acquisition, nonfiction readers, culture and film fans, and potentially as support curriculum for culture/film classes. It's very well annotated and the bibliography will provide many hours of further reading. It's a melancholy read.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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I think I saw The Blues Brothers at least 10 times and can quote entire scenes by heart.
This was a book according to my heart: full of behind the scenes, anedoctes and details.
A must read if you are a fan of the movie
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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While I wouldn't read a book-length biography of Belushi, Aykroyd, Michael, or the SCTV comedy gang -- or a history of SNL -- each chapter in this book gave enough of a fulsome background to all the respective elements that contributed to the making of The Blues Brothers to make it immensely satisfying even before getting to the fly-on-the-wall location shoot. Well done! I was delighted to highlighted this new release in “Going for Gold: 8 Oscar-Worthy Books,” a round-up of new and notable Hollywood-themed titles in the Books section of Zoomer magazine. (see full mini-review at link)

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I first saw The Blues Brothers in the fall of 1980. I was in my first year in university and they would show movies in an auditorium for $1. My friend and I walked out after about 10 minutes of watching this movie because we thought it was dumb and sucked. I've since seen it many times and can now appreciate the humour. And I like their albums (I saw Matt "Guitar" Murphy a few times live back in the late 1980s/early 1990s in bars here in Toronto).

When I saw there was a book about the movie, I thought it would be an interesting read ... and it was. The book starts by giving us the backgrounds of John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd, their meeting here in Toronto, and their friendship and working relationship through Second City, Saturday Night Live (as I was reading the book, I'd stop at times and look up on YouTube scenes discussed) and eventually becoming The Blues Brothers.

I've read a couple books about John Belushi and thought this one was good. It provides lots of info without being too detailed and boring. It was interesting to see how things worked behind the scenes to get things done and the interactions between people on movies including Animal House and The Blues Brothers.

The amount of drugs and booze that were always available to and used by everyone was amazing and scary. Given Belushi's issues and eventual early death, this book tends to focus more on him, which was fine. I didn't find him likeable as a person as he didn't treat people very well at times, especially as he become more famous and drug-addicted. I'm surprised his wife, Judy, put up with him for so long ... my inclination would have been to tell him to get help with his additions or I'd be gone, but she apparently had her own addiction issues.

My only issue with this book is it would have been nice to include pictures (there were none). I read an ARC so maybe there are some in the final version?

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Those of us who tuned into NBC's Saturday Night back in the day just to get another dose of John Belushi's craziness (in my case, it was also to see Gilda Radner in action) should not have been surprised by John's sudden death or even the way that he died. But most of us still were. Daniel de Visé's The Blues Brothers, part dual-biography, part show business history, and part cultural history, is a vivid recreation of those times.

Dan Aykroid and John Belushi were destined to become best friends at some point in their lives. The two men followed remarkably similar career paths to the "overnight success" and sudden stardom they seemed to achieve as cast members of Saturday Night. Both were products of comedy clubs, Akyroid in Toronto and Belushi in his home town of Chicago, that featured small groups of improvisational comedians so when they began working together on Saturday Night, the magic came early and it came often.

Surprisingly, it would be the relatively nerdy Dan Akyroid who ended up introducing the more worldly John Belushi to a style of music he knew almost nothing about despite having grown up in Chicago. Belushi was quick to pick up on Akyroid's enthusiasm for the sound, and it was probably inevitable that their shared love of the blues would be reflected on television screens all over America. And that television version of The Blues Brothers band turned out to be so much fun and so popular a concept, that in 1980 it led directly to the outrageously expensive and difficult-to-film movie The Blues Brothers, a movie that is now considered to be a true film classic.

The success of The Blues Brothers movie made the pair, but especially Belushi, such hot stars that Belushi's already problematic relationship to alcohol and drugs grew to out-of-control levels that began to threaten his marriage, his ability to work, and his life. Despite the efforts of those who knew him best, there was no going back for John Belushi.

Fans of the movie (and the musical genre) will be especially pleased to see how many pages the book devotes to the making of The Blues Brothers. The utter destruction and chaos endured by the city of Chicago during its filming is so unbelievable that it is difficult to believe that it was ever allowed to happen. This was an incredibly expensive and difficult movie to make, but even after expenditures reached a point of no return, the millions of dollars kept adding up to the extent that recovering even the cost of the movie seemed impossible to studio executives. The Blues Brothers was an important movie in another sense; it jumpstarted the waning careers of some blues regulars who were barely hanging on in 1980. Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, and James Brown found a whole new generation of fans, and some would go on to enjoy the most lucrative years of their entire careers.

Reading The Blues Brothers is a little like watching a massive train wreck in slow motion, but the book is packed with so many details and stories that Blues Brothers fans are certain to be intrigued by what they learn from it.

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The Blues Brothers is a jam-packed behind the scenes look at a great comedic film, primarily focused on the background and exploits of John Belushi. While I appreciated reading about the inception, the process, and the obstacles of making The Blues Brothers movie, it seems like this book would be better billed as a book about John Belushi before, during, and after the movie was made.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this advance copy.

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This book is so interesting! The Blues Brothers are back!

As a comedy fan, following the stories of two heavy-hitters as they become The Blues Brothers was incredibly entertaining to read. It was clearly well-researched, with a lot of direct quotes and insight from those in the orbit of the film. I do think it ends a bit slow: the pacing is consistent until Belushi’s passing and then kind of abruptly stops.

It also kind of made me hate John Belushi, a guy who was a complete dick to everyone and they all were content to overlook it just because he was funny. It does made me want to check out his other work though, so maybe I don’t completely hate him.

Overall this books like a labor of love, from a comedy fan to comedy fans who want a peak behind the curtain of how films get made.

Thank you to NetGalley, Daniel de Visé, and Grove Atlantic for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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The best reason "behind the scenes" is a genre, and absolutely wild ride through history of chaos and comedy.

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A truly great read for fans of the Blues Brothers and early Saturday Night Live. Very well researched and written, I stayed hooked throughout. A fitting tribute to John Belushi and Dan Ackryod, as well as Aretha, Ray Charles, James Brown and Cab Calloway. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

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My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Grove Atlantic for an advance copy of this new book about a musical duo who might have started to fill some time on a live show, but became something much bigger, much more important, and changed quite a few careers.

My father loved to laugh. My father also loved jazz and the blues. He also worked nights, so late night television was his best friend when he had days off and he couldn't get used to sleeping at night. I was usually drafted to watch television with him. I know we watched Saturday Night Live, and Fridays, and after getting illegal cable everything that probably a boy under ten shouldn't be watching. That brings us to The Blues Brothers Movie, premiering on cable. I remember Dad saying, "I read they crashed a lot of cars", and the movie began. And I loved it. Well it was too long, and some stuff went over my head. I really remember the music. And making Nazis miserable. And the car crashes. We went to Caldor's the next day and I got the soundtrack, on vinyl, and for some reason the Blues Brothers album on cassette. One I still have, the other lost to time. I loved both those guys. They seemed to be having fun. Making music, crashing cars what a life I thought. Though the price of this life was too much for one, as we soon learned. The Blues Brothers: An Epic Friendship, the Rise of Improv, and the Making of an American Film Classic by writer and journalist Daniel de Visé is a look at the creation of The Blues Brothers, and the varied events in music, television, stage, culture and more that came together to anoint these men on their mission from God.

The book begins with a look at both men. John Belushi was born in Chicago of Albanian parents, whose parenting skills were lacking in many ways. John was a smart kid, who didn't want to show it, sports was his outlet, as well as his escape from his family. John, however had an artistic side, which combined with a need to be the center of attention drove him to try acting. John had a drive to win, but he also had a drive for self-sabotage, something that followed him in life. Dan Aykroyd was born in Canada, of successful parents, with an almost photographic memory, a love for facts, and a lot of tics. The world of entertainment drew Aykroyd, and his lack of wanting to be in the spotlight, as well as his ability to write made him in demand in the world of improv. Here John and Aykroyd came together, becoming fast friends, than soul mates, than writing partners. First on the new show Saturday Night, and later with Aykroyd taking over the writing in movies. An idea for a band, singing Chicago blues hit them one night, expanded, and soon became a phenomenon, and a movie. And for many a career changing event.

Another great book from Daniel de Visé. If one has not read de Visé's book on B. B. King, buy both these books together and have a great week of reading. This look at The Blues Brothers is so much more than just about two men. de Visé looks at the changing world of comedy, the out with the older generation in with the new. The control that Chicago Improv had on comedy during the 70's and 80's. Blues music, and how the genre was almost dying in many ways until two white guys began to sing with a great backing band. And much more. Changes in television, the movie industry, even music. de Visé has a real gift in being able to write about all the subjects in a way that makes everything clear. Plus the research, the interviews really give a sense of the times, the people, and the waste of good people dying so early. I knew I would like this book, but each page had something interesting, something new, or a different way of looking at events. The narrative never lags, never canonizes certain people, or drags others. A wonderful book for a lot of people.

Recommended for fans of comedy of course. The behind the scenes movie stuff was interesting, as well as the behind the scenes music, so media history reader will definitely like this. A whole lot of fun, complete with a soundtrack to play while reading.

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Daniel de Visé has produced a fantastic book. The title is a misnomer because the narrative covers so much more than The Blues Brothers film. The book flows easily through the lives of both John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd so the reader understands the reasons why, and how the film was made.

It is the life of Belushi that dominates the narrative and deservedly so. As a force of comedic nature beset on personal destruction, Belushi’s story is fascinating. Ackroyd, like his character in the film, is secondary to the narrative, but still important. The pages are packed with stories that entertain, shock, and invoke many more emotions.

Plenty of the book is set aside to Saturday Night Live where the idea of The Blues Brothers germinated. There are plenty of anecdotes around this period including how, and why, some of the iconic moments of the TV programme occurred. It’s littered with star-studded names and the book is worth reading for that alone.

Fans of the film will enjoy the back half of the book as Jake and Elwood come to life and the story of the production is relayed. The book is well researched and de Visé should be commended for pulling together a fascinating read.

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Excellent account of a mesmerizing tale, with masses of detail yet never dry. Terrifying egos and badly timed drug excesses. Poor old Dan Ackroyd.

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Immersive account that transcends its title. I chose this thinking it would only cover the movie of the Blues Brothers, not knowing that it would deliver far more, what amounts to a deep dive into the culture that made the movie possible. The backstories and early lives of Belushi and Ackroyd, also of Lorne Michaels, of Saturday Night Live and how the members of Chicago's Second City formed what became the defining comedy of the day that continues in one form or another to the present time. It did see that, like the fans, de Visé was more intrigued with Belushi, that his explosive personality overshadowed everything around him, and his story was predominant. Stands to reason. His talent and tragic, senseless early death have never lost their fascination.

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A wonderful book filled with insights and anecdotes about a real treasure of a movie.
I will be re watching it now.

I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy of this book.

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This is an effective chronicle of one of the key threads that wove together around pop culture in the mid and late 1970s. I’ve read Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad’s Saturday Night multiple times so I recognized some of the anecdotes…but this story only intersects with SNL and the author manages to start with the childhoods of Aykroyd, Belushi and Landis to build out the key players as they cross paths and connect around this pivotal moment in comedy. I also really enjoyed the anecdotes specific to the making of the film; the author does a great job of digging into the production and fleshing out the day to day of a production that ballooned out of control. There was a lot of lightning caught in many bottles in the late 1970s and this book does a great job of chronicling the stories around one of those bottles.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advance copy.

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Who doesn’t love The Blues Brothers. A fitting tribute to our two leading men and a great book outlining the soundtrack that we all grew up with. For every film buff.

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Daniel de Visé can't do everything that this book's title promises, but it's not his fault. Any recounting of the epic friendship between the stars of THE BLUES BROTHERS will be weighted toward John Belushi, and as de Visé observes that is how Dan Aykroyd prefers it. Much of the biographical content is about Belushi, but Aykroyd still comes across as the glue of their shared SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE years and the prime mover behind their greatest silver screen collaboration. In order to tell the saga of Jake and Elwood, de Visé first has to dive into Belushi's background, the Chicago comedy scene, and the overlap and eventual competition between SNL and National Lampoon. He's particularly strong on the influences on the film's look - who knew the Dick Tracy comic strip would be so important? - and its music, which led to a backlash against the film in some quarters. And he covers the tortured production history, with the film's budget and the behavior of its star spiraling out of control, with admirable thoroughness. The film's surprising staying power only heightens the impact of Belushi's early death. THE BLUES BROTHERS remains his greatest legacy, and this book does the movie justice.

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