The great Dan Aykroyd sat down with veteran reporter Dan Rather to reflect upon what made The Blues Brothers so successful during their heyday. Aykroyd explained it was just a matter of timing. Neither he nor John Belushi were looking to culturally appropriate the songs they were using but rather pay them the respect that they felt the songs deserved.
I think it was okay for us to step in there. I don’t think it’s a valid point. The blues is for everyone. There’s so many great blues artists who aren’t African-American but fair enough for people to protect uh the culture against cultural appropriation. But see, we did it in such a spirit of reverence and love for those performers.
Additionally, Aykroyd and Belushi ensured that the artists were fairly compensated.
Atlantic Records said well, you’re you’re doing all these cover songs, just just offer the the writers a percentage. … just give them 10 grand. ….we’re going to keep mechanical royalties only… The original songwriters they keep their royalties. we ain’t making no special deal. All the people who wrote the songs in the in the in the show, all of them, got their full publishing because… we loved them, respected them, yeah and we weren’t going to do wrong by them.
Aykroyd also fondly remembered John Belushi and felt he was an incredibly talented man who died way too soon.
It was tough to lose my partner at that time and and also the way he died. ..it was a good warning to our community, that this could happen… it’s just John played in that arena and that’s dangerous. But he was a wonderful literate man. He knew all about theater and he read books and plays… I often think today that if he was alive he would be probably a director on Broadway, directing plays and and working with the greatest people in theater. I think that’s where he would have been headed.
Here’s the 1978 debut of The Blues Brothers on Saturday Night Live.