Event Recap: ‘The Rhythm and The Blues’


Leon. Photo by Ken Corbett.

Through legendary musicians like John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and B.B. King, and with gritty lyrics mired in vivid storytelling and raw emotion, the blues remains as one of the most revered and influential genres of music. For filmmaker and Windy City native Darryl Pitts, the blues has very special meaning as it is the subject of his upcoming Chicago-based film, The Rhythm and The Blues. “The film is really important because it deals with a music form that has been long forgotten,” Pitts said recently at an event to announce the project.

Set in 1960s-70s, The Rhythm and The Blues is the story of a family of Mississippi-born blues musicians who relocate and try to lay down musical roots in Chicago. While other cities like St. Louis and Memphis are known for having strong ties to the blues, for Pitts, it’s all about the very specific area of the blues known as “Chicago blues.” “Chicago is the home to not only the blues, but [also] gospel, house music, and all these other art forms,” he said. “It’s not forgotten around the world but it’s forgotten here in Chicago.”

Also on hand at the Chicago announcement for the film was actor Leon, who will star as bluesman Eddie Taylor in the film. When it came time to cast the blues legend, for Pitts, Leon immediately came to mind. “I wanted someone who could be nuanced,” Pitts said. “He is a very underutilized talent and he is actually one of this generation’s best actors. When he brings it, he brings it.”

Fans everywhere know Leon from his roles in soul and rock and roll-themed films like The Temptations, The Five Heartbeats and Little Richard, and he is happy to add a blues-related project to his resume.“That’s what I really love about this movie; the blues is a big part of our culture,”the actor said.“When you talk about the blues, it’s not just a form of music; it’s a form of expression for African Americans in this country.”

Filming of The Rhythm and The Blues is expected to get underway soon and will also be part of job creation and other opportunities in Chicago’s thriving entertainment industry. As for the film itself, Pitts promises it will stand apart from movies with similar subject matter. “People have asked what is different about this film than other films that have existed about the blues. The difference is that we’re dealing with culture, with people, with lives and with stories.” 

–LaShawn Williams

LaShawn Williams is a freelance writer and editor from Chicago, Illinois. She is an arts and entertainment enthusiast who has a serious thing for stand-up comedy, music and dance. Follow her on Twitter: @MsWilliamsWorld.

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