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Blues Brothers, 25 Years Later

(Soundbite of "Gimme Some Lovin'")


This morning we're marking one of the most momentous anniversaries in the history of show business. Twenty-five years ago today, a mass audience got its first look at a movie that was far more than a movie--or far less, depending on your point of view.

(Soundbite of "Gimme Some Lovin'")

THE BLUES BROTHERS BAND: (Singing) Well, my temperature's rising, got my feet on the floor. Twenty people rocking and they're wanting some more.

INSKEEP: The film was called "The Blues Brothers." Comedians John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd played Jake and Elwood, characters they'd originally used to warm up the studio audience on NBC's "Saturday Night Live." They pretended to be the front men for a top-notch blues band. Their act led to a best-selling album and concerts as the joke became real. The movie, when it came, featured cameos by far more accomplished musicians. James Brown preached in a church and sang. Ray Charles opened fire on a shoplifter and sang. Aretha Franklin ran a diner--and sang.

(Soundbite of "The Blues Brothers")

Ms. ARETHA FRANKLIN: (Singing) You'd better think.

Backup Singers: Think.

Ms. FRANKLIN: (Singing) Think about what you're trying to do to me. Yeah, think.

Backup Singers: Think. Think.

Ms. FRANKLIN: (Singing) Change your mind and let yourself be free.

INSKEEP: Dan Aykroyd was interviewed last year about "The Blues Brothers" phenomenon on WHYY's FRESH AIR.

Mr. DAN AYKROYD ("The Blues Brothers"): John and I, when we did "The Blues Brothers," we were in existence to serve these great artists and to, you know, reintroduce them to our audience and never felt that we were their equal, but we felt that we were really in service to their gift. You know our great band that we had? I think that's why they joined us and they realized we had a great reverence and respect for the music.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Many critics hated "The Blues Brothers" movie, though it is hard to understand how anybody disliked a lighthearted musical that ended with dozens of crashing police cars, the destruction if Illinois Nazis and the deployment of the National Guard. Years after John Belushi's death, there was a sequel to this movie starring his brother Jim. And this summer's 25th anniversary brings the inevitable anniversary DVD. There is plenty of memorabilia on eBay these days, and Dan Aykroyd is hosting a syndicated radio show about the blues. In addition, you can still turn on cable television and see that look, those dark suits and skinny ties. For fans of this movie, it will always be, as Elwood Blues once put it, `110 miles to Chicago. We've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes. It's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses.' Hit it.

(Soundbite of music) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.