An instant classic, especially for SNL fans, Blues Brothers is the movie that you go to whenever you’re in need of a good laugh or musical number. A crash course for those who might have missed the 1980 comedy: John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd play brothers Jake and Elwood Blues, “on a mission from God” to get their old band back together since Jake’s release from prison. Driving around in a decommissioned police car, they come across a cameo from just about every big celeb the late 70s knew: James Brown, Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, Cab Calloway, Carrie Fisher Twiggy (yes—even Twiggy), and of course, Aretha Franklin.
When the Blues Brothers show up at Franklin’s diner to persuade her husband Matt “Guitar” Murphy to join them on the road, she does not have time for the brothers’ shit. She belts a rendition of her 1968 hit “Think” to show her movie husband that she’s in charge and if she tells him he can’t go, then he can’t go. Though Franklin’s powerful voice is enough to get the Blues Brothers on their feet and dancing, it’s not enough to keep Murphy from joining them.
Franklin’s five and a half minutes of screentime is the strongest in the film. I first watched the movie as a kid, rolling my eyes at people my dad told me were well-known musicians at a time when I only listened to the Backstreet Boys. But when Aretha Franklin took the stage (or my TV screen), I was hooked. Maybe this movie had some credibility after all.
Hers wasn’t the only number done by a musical legend—Ray Charles and James Brown had their screen time too—yet the power of her voice and the confidence she exuded make her scene unlike any other in the film. In under six minutes, she captivated audiences and co-stars alike. Dan Aykroyd tweeted, “Happy memories of being with Aretha on movie sets and industry events. The Queen had a wry, skeptical eye on the world but once you got her laughing you were in. What a voice! What a soul. Angel choirs should prepare for increased rehearsal and discipline.”
Plus, let’s not forget that in the entirety of the 2 and a half hour movie, Aretha Franklin is the only female singer. This isn’t a huge surprise; the Blues Brothers is a boy-band, so it only makes sense that the musicians they come across on their “mission from God” are mostly men. And in a movie with only one female-led musical number, no one but Aretha Franklin could have taken that role. Dancing around a small diner in pink slides and an apron, Franklin was magnetic. Her number was one of empowerment—with lyrics like, “you better think about what you’re trying to do to me”—and with her charisma, force, power, and voice, she stole the show in one scene.