Five Other Musicians We'd Like to See Take on Historical Fiction
This past week Downtown Abbey fans got a hell of a shock when Diddy announced via Twitter that he was going to be starring on the show, his purported favorite. Producers were quick to deny it, but no doubt fans of the PBS period drama were a little hesitant to even imagine Diddy, a rapper with exactly one acting credit on his resume, appearing on their favorite show.
Luckily for everyone involved, it turned out that the whole thing was a publicity stunt for a Funny or Die parody of Downtown Abbey starring Diddy. Nevertheless, it caught Rocks Off's attention and got me wishing that more musicians would get into period dramas and historical fiction.
Why on earth would it make me want that? Because I love things that are ridiculous. So to any TV producers reading right now, here are five ridiculous (and awesome ideas) to exploit this burgeoning genre of television which Diddy has now pioneered.
5. Ted Leo Ted Leo of "and the Pharmacists" fame has one awesome trademark about his records: he always seems to come up with a traditional-sounding European jig. Hearts of Oak had Tell "Balgeary, Balgury is Dead," Living with the Living had "A Bottle of Buckie," and The Brutalist Bricks had "Bottled in Cork." The dude's so good at it, he's been mistaken for punk-jig pioneers the Dropkick Murphys.
With that in mind, he'd make a pretty great player in a historical drama based on the Irish War of Independence. Sure, Leo is a little more Irish by way of New Jersey, but that's fine; he can fake the accent. This one is gold as long as he soundtracks it as well, and John Lydon shows up as a soldier in the British army.
4. Morrissey Moz practically lives in a period drama to begin with. Just take a look at his album covers or his videos. The man is obsessed with the greasers of the '50s, and I honestly believe being removed from that scene is why his lyrics exhibit so much angst and depression. Luckily, we can fix this.
Through the power of historical television dramas, we can give Moz what he's always wanted: a starring role in a fantasy where he is the James Dean character in a weekly TV series based on films like Rebel Without a Cause.
3. Jay-Z Jay-Z is already somewhat associated with period dramas as of late, mixing it up with Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1920s exploration of the Jazz Age, The Great Gatsby. We also saw Jay-Z take an intense interest in 2007's American Gangster, a period-crime piece set in the late '60s. So despite the fact that Jay-Z's sole acting credit is in 2002's less than well-received State Property, I want to see Hova's survival tales come to life in maybe the roughest era in American history for a gangster: the 1930s.
Imagine Jay-Z in the Depression, competing with guys like Al Capone for street dominance. Suddenly all his lyrics have come to life in a new way. And if you need any other proof that this is the idea of a lifetime for Jigga, then look no further than recent evidence, which suggests he may himself be a time traveler from the era anyway!
2. Billy Joel Billy Joel is a noted history buff, which is why he wrote the most famous historical epic in rock history: "We Didn't Start the Fire," the amazing saga of world history between the years of 1949 and 1989. Still, despite having written all you need to know about those 40 years in one amazing pop song, there's still a lot more human history to cover. I know, I was shocked when I found that out too.
That's why my idea is for a weekly show hosted by Joel, evaluating each year's most important events each week starting from the year one. I don't know what was going on during the year one, and I don't really care, but as long as Joel injects the trademark enthusiasm he employed on lines like "trouble in the Suez" and especially "Chubby Checker, Psycho, Belgians in the Congo" in the original song, this is guaranteed to be a hit.
1. The Tallest Man on Earth Okay, this is going to sound really meta, but the Tallest Man on Earth is, in my opinion, the closest thing we have to a modern-day Bob Dylan. Literally, because his voice sounds so much like Dylan in his Freewheelin' days, it scares me. So what I'm thinking is a real deal Dylan biopic, none of that I'm Not There weirdness, with the Swedish folkie taking on the Dylan role.
He's got the voice for it, and the hair can be worked on. Most importantly, what era of Dylan's career would it focus on? As interesting as the '60s were, it feels played out. I'm thinking two eras instead.
Number one, 1978's swaggering Dylan in leisure suits playing jazzed-up Vegas-style versions of his tracks, the fat Elvis-era Dylan, followed by a mid-film transition to 1979's "You Gotta Serve Somebody" born-again Dylan, rocking it for Jesus.
Alternatively, 1986's Empire Burlesque Dylan, dressed like a washed up Stevie Ray Vaughan, doing assloads of coke, and caring more about his multiple mistresses than his recording output. It may not be the most popular Dylan, but it is an interesting Dylan.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.