In 2000, I didn't know much about Jack Black, and I suppose not many others did, either. Of course, I had seen some of the films in which he appeared before High Fidelity, but I doubt I knew who he was at the time. (I adore the 1992 film Bob Roberts, in which Black appears as a sycophant of the rebel conservative title character.). He had already appeared in the Tenacious D television series, but I wasn't really familiar with it. But it was High Fidelity in which he truly came to light as a comic actor (although he has certainly appeared in his fair share of stinkers since then, including the wretched Shallow Hal and the even worse King Kong remake). But for every few instances of cinematic detritus, he charms us in a film like School of Rock. What to do?
And so it was with his first major role in High Fidelity, featuring his fateful homage to Marvin Gaye. How did that come to pass? In fact, it was Black himself who chose the song he would cover in the film, as one news account from April 2000 notes:
Tenacious D fans will be shocked to hear lead singer Jack Black sing "Let's Get It On" at the end of "High Fidelity," but it was Black himself who chose the song. Black is known more for his heavy-metal parodies than the sweet rendition of the Gaye standard that closes the movie starring John Cusack. "I pushed for the song that they ended up using just 'cause I thought I could sing it well. They were talking about me doing another Marvin Gaye song that I didn't think rocked as hard. I wanted to really get a good clop in the chops at the end of the movie." Black plays a bombastic music snob who works in a record store.1Curiously, though, the soundtrack to the film featured not the live version depicted on screen but a far more restrained studio version. I recall reading an article at the time, or shortly thereafter, indicating that Black had hoped one of the live versions recorded on film would appear on the soundtrack, but that when the soundtrack was released, the studio (or the record company) had included the studio version, which can only be characterized as lifeless. Alas.
Since 2000, Black has become a major star. Whether this is a good thing, the jury is still out. Well, it's probably a good thing, as he does make us laugh, every so often.
This brief article, of course, would not be complete without a link to the video:
1. "People," Cleveland Plain Dealer (April 20, 2000).