John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd’s Blues Brothers started as an is-it-funny-or-what-is-it? bit that Lorne Michaels kept cutting out of early Saturday Night Live broadcasts. But the bit was unstoppable, and in just a few years it grew into an out-of-control blockbuster production that ultimately saved the careers of some of America’s greatest musical voices. de Visé captures it all in his worthy tome on the making of a classic comedy capstone. I love how the book takes a deep dive into the two personalities that made up the brothers. Sure, you may know Belushi as the gregarious son of Albanian immigrants with a voracious appetite for drugs. But do you know how the embarrassment of growing up an outsider filled him with endless ambition that drove him to ceaselessly improve as a performer? And perhaps you adore that quirky Canadian Aykroyd for his singularly strange dry wit. But have you considered how his obsessive personality and encyclopedic memory were the dual engines driving his ‘mission from God’: to reintroduce America to one of its own original art forms, the blues? It’s a wild, improbable, tragic, inspiring story of two friends who loved (and frustrated) each other, who pushed each other to create something bold and new from the old and forgotten, and in the process changed the landscape of pop culture. Comedy fans, music fans, anybody who was ‘there’ (or wishes they were) in the days when SNL was a weekly event, you’re going to love this book.— Chris Lee
The story of the epic friendship between John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, the golden era of improv, and the making of a comedic film classic that helped shape our popular culture"They're not going to catch us," Dan Aykroyd, as Elwood Blues, tells his brother Jake, played by John Belushi. "We're on a mission from God." So opens the musical action comedy The Blues Brothers, which hit theaters on June 20, 1980. Their scripted mission was to save a local Chicago orphanage. But Aykroyd, who conceived and wrote much of the film, had a greater mission: to honor the then-seemingly forgotten tradition of rhythm and blues, some of whose greatest artists--Aretha Franklin, James Brown, John Lee Hooker, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles--made the film as unforgettable as its wild car chases. Much delayed and vastly over budget, beset by mercurial and oft drugged-out stars, The Blues Brothers opened to outraged reviews. However, in the 44 years since, it has been acknowledged a classic: it has been inducted into the National Film Registry for its cultural significance, even declared a "Catholic classic" by the Church itself, and re-aired thousands of times on television to huge worldwide audiences. It is, undeniably, one of the most significant films of the twentieth century.The story behind any classic is rich; the saga behind The Blues Brothers, as Daniel de Vis reveals, is epic, encompassing the colorful childhoods of Belushi and Aykroyd; the comedic revolution sparked by Harvard's Lampoon and Chicago's Second City; the birth and anecdote-rich, drug-filled early years of Saturday Night Live, where the Blues Brothers were born as an act amidst turmoil and rivalry; and, of course, the indelible behind-the-scenes narrative of how the film was made, scene by memorable scene. Based on original research and dozens of interviews probing the memories of principals from director John Landis and producer Bob Weiss to Aykroyd himself, The Blues Brothers illuminates an American masterpiece while vividly portraying the creative geniuses behind modern comedy.