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SoundTRAX: Beyoncé stars as Etta James in "Cadillac Records"

Jeffrey Wright, Beyoncé, and Adrien Brody are pictured on the "Cadillac Records" soundtrack.
Columbia Records
/
Sony Pictures Releasing
Jeffrey Wright, Beyoncé, and Adrien Brody

Cadillac Records tells the story of Chess Records, often called "America's greatest blues label."

Today for Black History Month we're celebrating one of my favorite eras of music, the early 40s to the late 60s, with the 2008 film Cadillac Records.

The movie tells the story of Chess Records, the iconic Chicago label that recorded blues legends such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, while also helping give birth to rock ’n’ roll.

So why is the film called "Cadillac" Records instead of "Chess?"

Leonard Chess (played by Adrien Brody) co-founded the label he ran with his brother, Phil, and not only used to sell records out of his Cadillac, but when one of their artists accomplished something or needed to be motivated, Chess would give them a Cadillac as a gift.

In addition to Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters, the label would also launch the careers of legends like Etta James, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry, and Little Walter.

The film stars Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters, Beyoncé as Etta James, Cedric the Entertainer as Willie Dixon, Mos Def as Chuck Berry, Eamonn Walker as Howlin' Wolf, and Columbus Short as Little Walter. You'll also see Eric Bogosian and Gabrielle Union, plus Vincent D'Onofrio and a pre-Walking Dead Norman Reedus in small parts.

As for the soundtrack, the actors do indeed perform covers by the characters they play, plus there is additional music from Raphael Saadiq, Bey's sister Solange, Nas, and gospel duo Mary Mary to name a few. The deluxe edition of the compilation also has Buddy Guy, Fabulous Thunderbirds frontman Kim Wilson, Elvis Presley, and Q-Tip, along with the stars of the film.

But it's Beyoncé who rules the soundtrack, having recorded five songs for the release, four that Etta James recorded, and one original— so yeah, she's got to be the focus of today's SoundTRAX.

From Cadillac Records it's Beyoncé with a classic tune Etta James first recorded in 1967, "I'd Rather Go Blind."

SoundTRAX is a dive into notable music from iconic films and TV shows every Monday-Thursday at 8:10 a.m.

Mel is the WFPK morning host. Email Mel at mfisher@lpm.org.