The List: Best musician portrayals by actors

Erica Thompson
Jennifer Lopez as Selena

Following in Nelly's footsteps, Common will join the Columbus Symphony for “A Night of Symphonic Hip-Hop” at Columbus Commons on Saturday, July 15. Inspired by Common's transition to film 15 years ago, I could do a list of musician-actors, but I thought I'd switch it up and list some impressive performances by actors playing musicians. Here they are in simply the order they occurred to me.

Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles

Inspiring Common's lyric, “Couldn't tell it was me, like Jamie in ‘Ray,'” (see how I got another Common mention in there?), Foxx won an Oscar for his turn as the Georgia-born soul legend, who died shortly before the premiere. I loved watching footage of Foxx and Charles playing piano together ahead of the release, though it's hard to find the video online now.

Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash

I have a love-hate relationship with Phoenix after that mockumentary “I'm Still Here” and the infamous interview with David Letterman (I think he knew Phoenix was faking), but Phoenix was excellent as Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line.”

Angela Bassett as Tina Turner

Dear Academy: There's still time for you to give Bassett an Oscar for a lesser role or performance (“Black Panther” works for me) to make up for the disappointing loss she suffered when she was nominated for “What's Love Got to Do with It” back in the '90s. You know, like when you gave Denzel an Oscar for “Training Day.”

Leon as David Ruffin

One of the standout performances in “The Temptations” miniseries, which I recorded on VHS back in the day. (“Ain't nobody comin' to see you, Otis!”)

Jennifer Lopez as Selena

Lopez was an actress before she released an album, so this counts. And she was radiant and convincing in “Selena,” though I can't say the same for her other, non-musical movies (see “Maid in Manhattan” or, worse, “Gigli”). However, my mom keeps begging me to watch her in “Shades of Blue.”

Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens

I'm always envious of a good three-part moniker. Unlike Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Phillips' name became synonymous with impressive acting, at least in “La Bamba,” which received positive reviews and a big box office return.

Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters

Wright is good in EVERYTHING he does, including the “Cadillac Records” film about the legendary Chess Records. Go back and watch him in “Basquiat,” “Shaft” and, of course, “Boardwalk Empire,” in which he played the role of “evil Marcus Garvey,” as my friend once said.

Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn

I have not seen “Coal Miner's Daughter” (I know, I'm awful), but Spacek's Oscar, the 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and general acclaim from people I know speak volumes.