SHOW BUSINESS HALL OF FAME: Eddie Murphy

eddie-murphy_spike-jpgIt is hard to believe that Eddie Murphy was not yet 20 years old when he was recruited by the producers of “Saturday Night Live” in 1980.
Fame was instantaneous, with Murphy creating some of the funniest and most memorable characters in the history of the iconic show.
No one could, for example, ever forget Murphy as James Brown in the “Celebrity Hot Tub Party” number; as Mr. Robinson in “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood”; as “Buckwheat”; as Michael Jackson; as “Little Richard Simmons”; as Raheem Abdul Muhammad, the militant arts critic; as James Brown dressed as “Annie” singing a funky version of “Tomorrow”; and as the sleazy author “Velvet Jones,” whose book instructed women on how become “a high paid ho in six short weeks.”
Eddie Murphy, who was on “SNL” from 1980 to 1984, was a natural, and despite his young age, exuded self-confidence.
“I’VE ALWAYS had confidence,” he said. “It was because I have lots of initiative. I always wanted to make something of myself.”
From his earliest “SNL” performances, it was evident that superstardom was all but guaranteed.
But perhaps even he never envisioned the magnitude of his fame, and the amount of money he would routinely generate. He is, in fact, one of the highest grossing actors in Hollywood history, due to the sometimes staggering box office figures of such movies as the “Beverly Hills Cop” series, “The Nutty Professor,” “Coming to America,” “Doctor Dolittle,” the “48 Hours” series, “Dreamgirls,” “Life,” “Harlem Nights,” “Daddy Day Care,” “Trading Places” and “Boomerang.”
That is in addition to providing the voice of “Donkey” in the massively successful “Shrek” movies.
For sure he’s also had his share of duds, but as he put it, “In a business where success is an exception and not the rule, I’ve mostly been successful.”
AS FOR the roles that most people considered beneath him, Murphy would probably make reference to his paychecks, just as Richard Pryor once did about his, saying his critics might have less to say if they knew how much he was being paid.
But, of course, for Brooklyn, New York-born Edward Regan Murphy it all started with stand-up comedy.
When he was in his mid-teens, Murphy was already performing as well as writing his own routines, for anyone who cared to watch and listen. His major influences were two of his heroes, Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby.
But in terms of rawness, the influence of Pryor was dominant. Murphy’s act was laced with profanity, and he probably cringes today with regard to the frequency he told mean-spirited jokes at the expense of whites, overweight people, gays, Italian Americans, etc.
Murphy made his film debut in 1982, while he was still riding his amazing wave of popularity on “SNL.” The movie was “48 Hours,” co-starring Nick Nolte. That same year, Murphy became the first and only cast member to host “Saturday Night Live” while in the current cast.
INTERESTINGLY, the following year he made a film, “Trading Places,” with former “SNL” cast member Dan Aykroyd. It, too, was a major success.
By this time Murphy was a bona fide superstar, but he avoided the psychological drama that so many successful entertainers go through, some of it no doubt self-induced, regarding their career moves and other personal decisions related to it.
“I think I have enough of a sense to know what works for me and what doesn’t, without going into some big thing and analyzing what I do,” he said. “I’m in a position that allows me to do what I want to do and I do it.”
Murphy has also had some success as a recording artist, although the public tends to not seriously think of him as a singer. But one of his most effective film roles was in “Dreamgirls” in which he portrayed James “Thunder” Early, based heavily on James Brown. So effective, in fact, that he won a Golden Globe award and was nominated for an Oscar, which many people feel he should have won.
Although he is famous as a comedian and actor, Murphy has made it known that music is far more than just a casual interest or hobby.
“Music has always been around with me,” he said. “I had a band before I did stand-up, when I was about 15 in high school. I do music all the time. Like when I’m around the house, I have my guitar with me all the time. I love to make people laugh, but even if I was dead broke, I would play my guitar.”
He added, “The whole way I record I learned from Rick James. I learned how to produce music from hanging around Rick James.”
Eddie Murphy had a Top 10 hit in 1985 with “Party All the Time,” written, produced and arranged by Rick James.
On June 26, 1996, Eddie Murphy received a much-deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
SVH

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