Forty-seventh installment in a series exploring very important people in my life.
Let me start explaining how this will work: I listed 65 idols of mine. Every Friday (with the exception of those reserved for the Rock Chain posts) I’ll draw one of the names (following a system that it’s really not important to be explained here) and talk about it.
Therefore, the order in which the names will appear doesn’t necessarily shows where they rank in my preference.
As a final introductory note, this is also not a biography article. I’ll just write how I feel about people represented in it, their talent and their importance in my life.
Usually, your interests are what makes you connect to people. Think about it for a moment: your best friends are those with whom you have a lot in common. Types of music, political views, sports, movies, you name it.
I have an opinion that you can transport this to people who are not your friends, but that you admire who also because of that, become your idols. Of course, you first admire their art, but hey, if you discover that you also have some common passions, this is a great bonus.
And that’s the case with Spike Lee. Not only he’s a brilliant director, he also has a great love for sports and good music. That makes him a winner in my book.
Shelton Jackson Lee was born March 20, 1957 in Atlanta (GA). His mother was a teacher of arts and black literature (and the one who nicknamed him Spike) and his father was a Jazz musician and composer. When he was a child, the family moved to Brooklyn, New York where he attended John Dewey High School.
He graduated from New York’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts in Film & Television.
His first feature film was She’s Gotta Have It where he played a character called Mars Blackmon, who loved the New York Knicks and Michael Jordan. Given the success of the film, Nike offered him a job for directing Air Jordan commercials. The pairing made both stars, superstars.
Lee’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing is in my humble personal opinion the best race tension depicting movie ever made. It manages to be a great critic without sounding corny, is entertaining and showcases the talents of actors such as Danny Aiello, John Turturro, Samuel L. Jackson (in a great radio broadcaster role) and a young Martin Lawrence. And it also shows the world the talents of Public Enemy and their most famous song, “Fight the Power”. Ending with the quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X is the cherry on the cake.
In the early nineties Spike made two things that showed his love for music. In 1990 the wonderful movie Mo’ Better Blues starring Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes showing the struggles of two Jazz musicians in late sixties New York and in 1991 he directed the documentary that, at least in my book, allowed him to do anything he wants for the rest of his life and I won’t care if it’s good or bad: the incomparable Do it a Capella. No need to deepen the conversation here, as I already wrote a whole post about it. It’s a masterpiece, a real work of art.
Of course there are other great films like Jungle Fever, Girl 6, Malcolm X, Summer of Sam, The Inside Man – one of my very favorites – and many others.
When it comes to sports, Spike is known by his love for the New York Yankees, but mostly for his unconditional love for the game of basketball and the New York Knicks. And that’s a nice thing: he loves the game, more than anything. If not, how could he be so good friends with MJ, who year in and year out routed the Knicks at Madison Square Garden? And he’s also good friends with Kobe Bryant from arch rivals Lakers about whom he filmed a rather nice documentary called Kobe Doin’ Work.
Now, if you wanna talk documentaries and basketball, you don’t need to go further than ESPN’s 30 for 30 classic: Winning Time: New York City vs. Reggie Miller. The altercations between Reggie and Spike during games are hilarious and this is a must see.
For all that, Spike, do the right thing, and step into the Hall of Idols.
Be sure to check out my book “Straight And Lethal” winner of the NABE Pinnacle Awards 2014 Fall edition.
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