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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesday Tunes: Birth of Cool

Fifty-six years ago today, an actor was born who would come to epitomize "cool" for American and international movie audiences. That actor is Denzel Washington, and he continues to be one of the world's biggest box-office stars with an impressive catalog of films, two Oscars, two Golden Globes, and numerous other awards and nominations.
I thought it would be fun today to remember a few of Denzel Washington's films by the songs which inspired them.
Washington came to popularity on the acclaimed TV medical drama St. Elsewhere, and shortly after that series ended, he assumed the action-hero mantle (and a Jamaican accent) as Chief of Police Xavier Quinn, in a movie that took its name from the old Bob Dylan song  "The Mighty Quinn." (aka "Quinn the Eskimo") made famous by Manfred Mann.

The song even sneaks its way into The Mighty Quinn movie in this scene when Denzel demonstrates his blues chops alongside his acting chops.

In 1995, Washington strode into the role of author Walter Mosley's hard-boiled detective Easy Rawlins in another of my favorite Denzel films, Devil In a Blue Dress, a title no doubt inspired by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels' 1966 hit "Devil With A Blue Dress."

Finally, the movie that earned Washington his fourth Oscar nomination was the 2000 biopic of wrongly-convicted former boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, The Hurricane, named after and featuring the song (also by Bob Dylan) that contributed to Carter getting a new trial and being released. (Here covered by Ani Di Franco.)

Happy birthday, Denzel! Looking forward to many more years of great movies.

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