Written by Fantasma el Rey
Mr. Rock ‘n Roll is the story of legendary 1950s DJ Alan Freed, who coined the term “rock ‘n’ roll” and brought the sound of the city to the masses. This 1999 made-for-television movie stars Judd Nelson as Mr. Rock ‘n’ Roll himself and features Madchen Amick as his loving wife. The film also boasts an appearance by Paula Abdul. Not to mention a classic rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack that covers many hits of the 1950s.
So with all that working for it this should be an interesting look at the life of a radio pioneer. Not so much. Mr. Rock ‘n Roll isn’t a completely bad glance at the life of Freed but 88 minutes isn’t enough time to cover the ground which was broken by him, to get past the surface of his story, or to go into depth with the artists and music that was so important to him.
The movie follows Freed from his start as a small-time Cleveland disc jockey where his coattail was pulled to the happenings of the rhythm and blues sound of the underground, so to speak. Having been bitten by the R&B bug, Freed fought to change his bland radio show to the more exciting, pulsing fresh sounds that young Afro Americans where forging in clubs, pubs, dancing halls, and inner-city juke joints. We see Freed meet the young front man of an R&B group, Jackie Wilson, who would go on to score major hits on his own. Freed attempts to promote live shows featuring Wilson and many other hot acts of the day.
As his popularity soars the big time calls and Freed is off to the Big Apple to further spread the R&B gospel, soon to be known nationwide as “rock ‘n’ roll,” which legend says is the name Freed gave to this dangerous, edgy music that all American white kids were beginning to now and love.