Crossroads: An Appreciation
Living in a sleepy Southern Eastern Colorado town, my entertainment choices were limited. We had one theater that played the same movie for what felt like months. My group of friends waited breathlessly for MTV to finally come to town (it eventually arrived in 1987; hello Headbangers Ball!). But we had VHS.
One tape we wore out was Crossroads starring Ralph Macchio and Joe Seneca (Ry Cooder and Arlen Roth supplied the memorable soundtrack). It is the epic Americana story about a middle-class white kids love of the blues. Lost songs. Road trips. Magical crossroads. Satan. Brilliant!
This movie vividly introduced me to te blues, juke-joints, roadhouses, racism, class, and the legend of Robert Johnson.
Could this teenage kid really play the blues? His snobby Julliard Professor tells him that, “Excellence in primitive music is cultural. You have to be born to it.” Was that true?
Once you see old Ralph play the blues, you know the professor is wrong.
So we begin the adventure. He meets the ornery Willie Brown (played beautifully by Joe Seneca). Willie agrees with the professor, but has reasons to give the kid a chance. Ralph breaks Willie out of “jail” to travel to the Mississippi Delta and learn Robert Johnson’s lost song.
Well, if Ralph Macchio could be a bluesman, so could I. And my rock-star dreams were ignited. To this day, I regularly quote such bon motes as:
“Sounds like birdshit”
“Ain’t no man if you ain’t got no car”
“Hellhounds on your trail”
“Ain’t no deal ever as good as you want it to be old man. But that ain’t no reason to break a deal”
I wanted to be that kid who could go on stage and blow the angry crowd away.
Man, how does that not excite you?
If you were a male and had any interest in heavy metal music in the late 80s, you saw this movie. You also loved the final dueling guitar scene. Stevie Via is the devil. Karate Kid slays the devil! The mojo worked! All is well.
We’d rewind that part over and over. It was pure testosterone. Maybe we weren’t good at sports, but we could be guitar Gods.
Well, time has proven that the Julliard Professor may have known what he was talking about. I never did play a juke joint. Never was very good at the blues. So, watching this movie has to satisfy my rock-star dreams.
I guess in the end, what I wanted what old Willie Brown did, “Lots of towns… Lots of songs… Lots of women… Good times… Bad times… Only thing I wanted anyone to say is… ‘He could really play… He was good’.
(Sorry it’s in Italian, but you get the idea).
If you haven’t seen this in a while, perhaps it’s time to head down to Mississippi again.