Random plug for my favorite movie, "Walk the Line", about the life of country singer Johnny Cash, which I recently watched again instead of packing. I must have watched the DVD five times by now, but it's been a few years since the last time I saw it, and frankly even if it'd only been weeks, I would still have enjoyed every single scene of the movie (except the one where his elder brother Jack dies, which I find very hard to watch, although very powerful).
Isn't it stunning to realize how many top artists have become who they are due to incredible hardship early in life? I can't say it comes as a surprise, though: if you have never been thrust into the role of an outsider, from which you see the world in new ways, you have little opportunity or reason to develop an original take on society. If you can't see the world in new ways (and you won't if you're part of the "in" crowd), you're just better off doing your hair or reading fashion magazines. I do think a lot of people are aware of that, but perhaps not as many as we'd like. In a way, the proliferation of low-quality books also follows from some of their authors' inability to recognize they're not bringing anything new to the table and the story they've written about has been told before, in a better way to boot.
My favorite character in the movie is June Carter. She is incredibly modern for the times but remains principled, grounded and family-oriented throughout, and after some rocky years with Cash (before they really started their relationship) she is the one who helps him get clean and stands by him for decades after their wedding in 1968. (They died within four months of each other in 2003.)
In the same vein, another movie I think I'd like but have in fact never seen would be Ray, about jazz musician Ray Charles. It was released in the fall of 2004 when I had just started working and had other things to do than going to the movies. (I didn't see Walk the Line in theaters either - it was released only a few months after Ray and I discovered it in DVD.) Again, long odds of success, traumatizing death of a sibling, families of modest means, drug use and ultimate redemption.
People say Charles wrote his best songs before he quit using, though, which makes his story more complicated than Johnny Cash's. But in both cases, a tragedy experienced in their youth transformed them and ultimately allowed them to leave an incredible body of work to posterity. As for Cash, it took some time (and it took Carter two failed marriages) but he finally found love and peace and all that, with another creative super-star of the music world who was every bit his equal.