" Allen Freed Story: Mr Rock And Roll"
The Glory and Gory Days of '50s Rock and Roll, (08/26/09)
This Alan Freed Story was originally broadcast on television in 1999 is a very entertaining retrospective of the meteoric rise to fame as well as the sad ending of the career and life of the fascinating Alan Freed. According to the credits, this flick was based on John Jackson's book Big Beat Heat: Alan Freed and The Beginning of Rock & Roll.
This fine movie starts in the early '50s in Cleveland, Ohio where we see Freed checking out teenagers dancing to rhythm and blues music. The light bulb goes on as Freed starts incorporating "race music" into his radio format. Like many of the 45s Freed played, Alan's stock bulleted to the top of the charts. The man was on a roll, but like many things in life - especially in the music business - everything does not last forever. As expected, there were some bumps along the way, but through it all Freed triumphs when he starts organizing series of live R&B concerts which all sold out.
Then, the call comes from the Big Apple, Alan packs up his family, moves east and almost instantaneously reduplicates his Cleveland successes, but this is New York City now, and more focus is upon Freed which wasn't a good thing. Enter the United States government which did not like what rock & roll and black music was doing to teenagers, eventually shutting down one of America's musical icons.
Cleverly, Freed's last spin in New York City is "Goodnight My Love." There's emotional commentary from Alan, (I'm paraphrasing) "that I did nothing wrong, and I will be back on the airwaves." Unfortunately, this never came to pass, and just five years later, Freed had passed away at just forty-three years young. Unfortunately, this fine film makes no mention about those last five years of Freed's life which would have been potentially interesting to know.
This sad saga has some very strong and poignant moments, and the movie motors along at a very good pace, making it a solid document about Freed's life. There are no doubts about Freed's accomplishments as being a true visionary. His major mistake was borrowing money from Morris Levy which was later construed as payola. Judd Nelson's depiction of Alan Freed is strong and very likeable, though Judd looks a little too modern and doesn't always look like a '50s character, but nonetheless, I enjoyed the way the movie portrayed Freed's obvious zest and love of the music. You may or may not like lip-synched segments of Little Richard, Jackie Wilson, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley, and others. They are far from perfect, but these passages make us relive the past and get the appropriate points across to the viewers.
Historians and fanatics might object to some of the content, like Bill Haley playing the lead guitar in his segment, but just sit back and enjoy the flick as you will dig getting a glimpse of what life was like during the simpler days of the '50s. Additionally, you will obtain an understanding of Freed's amazing desire to program the music he wanted on his radio shows, as I did not get the impression that the payola accusations were all that justifiable. The undeniable fact is Freed reached and moved a huge number of music lovers, and for that alone, he should never be forgotten. This video delivers that message. Bob Putignano a senior contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart of Sounds of Blues at www.SoundsofBlue.com. Bob maybe contacted at email@example.com