Is ‘A Jazzman’s Blues’ a True Story? It contains elements of truth

A Jazzman's Blues

Tyler Perry’s A Jazzman’s Blues is unlike the quintessential comedic Perry film. It’s from a script he wrote nearly three decades ago when he was a struggling performer. The story tells a tale of forbidden love between Bayou, a prodigiously talented black jazz player, and Leanne, a mixed-race girl passing as white. 

Ten years after Leanne was sent away by her mother, she returns home accompanied by a white man with vast political connections. Reconnecting places the pair in grave danger, but they can’t resist each other. 

Leanne’s mother fuels another separation, sparking a period of singing success for Bayou, but his love for Leanne booms as loud as his voice. The lovers plan one last attempt at eloping, but the stakes are much higher this time. 

A Jazzman’s Blues is a fictional story featuring aspects of Tyler’s childhood

Tyler Perry wrote A Jazzman’s Blues after sneaking into a theater to meet late playwright August Wilson. Perry talked to Wilson about his struggles on the circuit, and Wilson advised him to write whatever was in his heart. “I went home and ‘Jazzman’ ported out of me,” Perry said. 

Perry pitched the idea, but it didn’t take off. If Perry had released A Jazzman’s Blues at the time, few would have noticed, and it likely wouldn’t have been as good as it is 27 years later. Tyler needed to craft ‘Madea’ to give him the platform to create films like A Jazzman’s Blues. 

The film tells a fictional story imbued with elements from Tyler’s childhood. Tyler wrote about a jazz player because music represented laughter and joy. He told the Toronto Star:

“It was reflecting on my own life and I think, subconsciously, a lot of my own life showed up while writing. In moments of sadness, there was always music; and moments of great happenings, there was always music and laughter and joy. My grandfather actually owned a juke joint called the S Club.”

Black folks passing as white was also common in Tyler’s past. While looking at his family’s past, he found some family members that passed as white. People who looked whiter than they were black, even in Tyler’s nuclear family, received preferential treatment. Perry explained:

“Where I grew up, the lighter the skin you had, the better you were and the more successful you could be. My father adored my older sister — he called her ‘Red’ because she was so light-skinned. And me and my [other] sister were treated poorly because we had brown skin.”

Perry’s film, though written 27 years ago, is relevant today. The history of black people in the United States is under threat, with some politicians trying to repaint it as ‘glorious and wonderful.’ Films like A Jazzman’s Blues are essential as they depict black history accurately. Perry told NPR:

“I wanted to tell the story now, even though it’s fictional, but it touches on some very important things that have happened in our society. And I want to open that conversation, especially at the end of the movie, something happens.”