T-Bone Burnett's 'Crazy Heart' Soundtrack Stirs Controversy

BY Jason SchneiderPublished Aug 29, 2019

Country music fans have been drooling over Crazy Heart, and the film seems poised to take home at least a couple of Academy Awards this year. One could be for best song, something that "The Weary Kind," written by T-Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham, certainly deserves. Burnett's work overall on the film as co-producer is stellar, but according to recent reports, he could be facing a nasty legal backlash over the project.

One of Burnett's critical decisions was to enlist his old friend, singer-songwriter Stephen Bruton, to write some of the film's original music, as well as consult Jeff Bridges on the finer points of his lead character, Bad Blake. Bruton, who was battling cancer during production and died shortly after completing his work on the soundtrack, named Burnett as executor of his will. One of Bruton's final acts was to also file for divorce from his wife Mary, which cleared the way for him to leave the bulk of his $1.2 million estate to his brother.

As the New York Times reports, Mary Bruton has filed a legal challenge stating she feels Burnett influenced her husband's business decisions, and "exaggeratedly characterized Mr. Bruton as a role model for the main character."

Although Crazy Heart is dedicated to Bruton's memory, those with any knowledge of country music will see clear flashes of Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson (with whom Bruton worked closely for many years) as the basis of the Bad Blake character. But, with the Oscar buzz building, the financial stakes are certainly high for the ex-Mrs. Bruton.

In an interview with Exclaim!, Burnett recently discussed his relationship with Bruton, saying, "We had grown up together in Fort Worth, Texas, and I knew that Stephen knew more about this life on the road than anybody I knew. I've been in the studio my whole life; I've only gone on the road three times, really. So I called Stephen up to ask if he would do the original music for the film. He said yes, and we became partners. He was on the set with Jeff every day, he was the go-between, he was the most active producer of the music, he was a full partner in the songwriting. I would say he was the most in control of the music side of the film."

Burnett also went on to reveal that he has no current plans to work again with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on a potential follow-up to the multi-Grammy-winning Raising Sand. "If they're doing another one, it isn't with me," he said.

Instead, expect to see Burnett's name listed as producer on upcoming albums by Jakob Dylan (April 6), Willie Nelson (April 13), Gregg Allman, a collaboration between Elton John and Leon Russell, John Mellencamp's collaboration with Stephen King (Ghost Brothers Of Darkland County), Robert Randolph, and Steve Earle.

To read Exclaim!'s full interview with Burnett, click here.

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