30 Years Later: 9 Songs For John Belushi
Thirty years ago today, we lost John Belushi, one of the most brilliant comedic actors of his time. He was a member of some of the best seasons of Saturday Night Live in the mid to late '70s, and starred in the classic comedy Animal House. He was one of the Blues Brothers with fellow SNL-cast member Dan Akroyd, meaning that he was responsible for one of only three good films ever based on SNL skits (the other two being both Wayne's World films).
He was also a man who lived excessively. He was known for his incredible energy (often finishing rehearsals by passing out in exhaustion), his love of practical jokes, his fondness for lively music, and the unfortunate substance abuse that eventually killed him. His memory remains a testament to both the power of genius, and the dangers of a rock-star lifestyle.
Here's to you, John.
Das Racist, "You Can Sell Anything": We can't prove it, but we're pretty sure Das Racist is the only rapper who has managed to work the word "cuneiform" into a song. Belushi would've gotten a kick out of Das Racist's dry, sometime surreal delivery, and hopefully would've warned him against the habits that would get him "found like a brown John Belushi."
Grateful Dead, "West L.A. Fadeaway": Written the same year as Belushi's death, "West L.A. Fadeway" doesn't mention Belushi by name, but is obviously inspired by his death in the Chateau Marmont. Belushi joined the Dead on stage at least once, singing backup during an encore at a 1980 New Jersey gig.
Meat Loaf. "All Revved Up and No Place to Go.": Belushi and Meat were good friends and occasionally worked together, such as when Meat understudied for Belushi in National Lampoon's Lemmings. The both were larger than life figures who never did anything half-way. Belushi helped get Meat's career as a musician going when he managed to get him booked on SNL playing "All Revved Up and No Place to Go." Be sure to check out Meat's autobiography for some really great Belushi stories, including a geography-based cocaine competition.
Anthrax, "Efilnikufesin (N.F.L)": Whereas most tributes to Belushi focus on the tragedy of his passing, Anthrax dedicated a song to him that berated him for failing to conquer his demons or rid himself of hangers-on who would enable his substance abuse. Speaking of which...
Gordon Lightfoot, "Sundown": Gordon Lightfoot's hit song isn't about Belushi, but is instead about his former mistress Cathy Smith. Smith was a drug dealer, groupie, occasional backup singer, and just all-out rock mistress. Lightfoot's associations with her were chaotic, full of physical altercations, insane jealously, and led directly to the most expensive divorce settlement in Canada at that time.
Later, Smith would meet John Belushi, and would serve 15 months in prison for providing and injecting him with the heroin that killed him. She told the National Enquirer, "I killed John Belushi. I didn't mean to, but I am responsible."
Deine Lakaien, "A Fish Called Prince": Belushi's death at the Chateau Marmont is one of those things that has seeped into Hollywood mythology. Dozens of different personalities are said to have been present including Robin Williams, according to Cathy Smith. The ever-changing myth is a big part of Neil Gaiman's short story The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories, about both the magic and plasticity of Hollywood. Deine Lakaien wrote this incredible tune based around the story, making it the furthest stretch to connect to Belushi, but still an amazing commentary on the worship of stars.
Interestingly enough, John Belushi is still alive in at least one of Neil Gaiman's worlds. In his one-shot comic "Sandman: The Golden Boy," Belushi is inspired by Prez Rickard, the teenage President of the United States, to quit drugs after meeting him on the set of SNL. He lives well into old age, a happier, calmer man.
FEAR, "New York's Alright if You Like Saxophones": Belushi was a huge punk rock fan, and was talking about doing a movie where he'd be a music reporter following the punk scene before he died. His favorite punk act was FEAR. He made a deal with them. If they let him play drums at a gig, he'd put them on SNL, a deal they accepted. "New York" was one of the songs they played, and it seemed most appropriate. FEAR later appeared on the soundtrack for Belushi's film Neighbors.
Oasis, "Don't Look Back in Anger": We've never seen any indication that Oasis connected this song in anyway with Belushi, but Don't Look Back in Anger was the name of a short film for SNL, directed by Tom Schiller, that featured a 90-year-old Belushi visiting the graves of his former castmates. Something about that image and Oasis' tune just match up in an eerie, slightly funny way.
Blues Brothers, "She Caught the Katy": We'll let Belushi himself take us out with our favorite Blues Brothers tune.
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