Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Alabama Wild Man

I was kind of bummed to return home last night and learn of country singer-songwriter Jerry Reed’s passing at the age of 71. A consummate guitarist and wordsmith (among the hit tunes he wrote: A Thing Called Love for Johnny Cash and That’s All You Gotta Do for Brenda Lee), he parlayed his musical talents into a lengthy solo career that included such hits as When You’re Hot, You’re Hot (which won him a Grammy in 1971 and a short-lived TV variety series the following year), Amos Moses, Lord, Mr. Ford, I Love You (What Can I Say), She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft) and The Bird.

Reed was one of the earliest of country performers to stake out a separate career in movies, and his persona—that of the fun-loving, good-ol’-boy redneck—was well showcased in outings like Smokey and the Bandit (1977; which featured the title tune, East Bound and Down—another Reed smash) and its sequel in 1980. He wasn’t going to keep Sir Laurence Olivier up nights, but he was talented enough to break out of that mold for a serious showcase or two, notably the villainous Bama McCall in Burt Reynolds’ Gator (1976) and an underrated war actioner, Bat*21 (1988).

My personal favorite of Reed’s roles is that of a comical hit man in The Survivors (1983), a Michael Ritchie-directed comedy starring Walter Matthau and Robin Williams. The trailer is below, and you can check out a short scene here.

R.I.P., Jerry—you will be missed.

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