Produced by Beyonce Knowles, **Cadillac Records** presents an entertaining story about the creation and closing of Chess Records, a small business that proved that music listening is color blind. The storyline is perfunctory and connects the dots of history, but it is the spaces between the dots that is the heart of **Cadillac Records.**
The best part of **Cadillac Records** are the musical performances; recreated by Jeffrey Wright as Mississippi moaner Muddy Waters, Columbus Short as tragic harmonica bluesman Little Walter, Mos Def as country music inspired Chuck Berry and Beyonce Knowles as sultry songstress Etta James. These three minute musical performances and the heart and soul of **Cadillac Records**
The brains behind Chess Records is Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody), an European immigrant who saw the American Dream beyond the junkyard that he owned. Chess starts off owning a club in the negro part of town, where he signs Muddy Waters and Little Walter. Chess produces a blues record album and takes Muddy Waters on a tour of the Chitlin’ Circuit in the deep south. The record album makes Leonard Chess a rich man and he repays his talent with a new Cadillac.
When Chess moves his business from nightclubs to record producing, musical talent migrate to Chicago. Chess signs a rival to Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf (Emanon Walker) and introduces the country western influenced sounds of Chuck Berry. Always innovative, Chess signs Etta James as a tough contrast to the men of Chess Records. Through the musical alchemy of blues, country western and jazz music, a new sound is created in American music, called Rock and Roll.
To show the modern influence of Chess Records, **Cadillac Records** concludes with some hop/hop and rap music. This film would be an excellent introduction for music students in secondary schools, except that **Cadillac Records** is “R” rated mostly for language.
**Cadillac Records** provides some tough love lessons about the subject of responsibility. This theme comes into focus during the big showdown between the frugal Howlin’ Wolf and flamboyant Muddy Waters.
While Muddy is Chess Records biggest star, he is always needing a cash advance from his boss, the Wolf is command of his own purse strings and accepts no freebies from Leonard Chess. After seeing **Cadillac Records** the career of Howlin’ Wolf would be a worthy sequel. **Cadillac Records** is the Mount Olympus that inspires the music that is indigenous to American Culture.