‘Blaze’ is a beautiful story that looks at the life of a musician from Texas. The titular character is played by Ben Dickey, and his love interest, Sybil Rosen, is played by Alia Shawkat. The indie movie marks the directorial debut for actor Ethan Hawke. It explores the protagonist’s story through three distinct time periods in his life, and the wonderful portrayal of the musician has definitely garnered appreciation. So it is only natural to wonder if the eponymous character is based on the story of an actual person, and if so, what happened to him?
Is Blaze Based on a True Story?
Yes, the film is based on the life of Blaze Foley, whose real name was Michael David Fuller. Foley was born on December 18, 1949, in Arkansas. The screenplay of the movie was adapted from a book written on his life by Sybil Rosen (his muse and lover) named ‘Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze.’
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Sybil Rosen on her time spent living with Blaze in a tree house in the Georgia pinewoods: "When I try to understand what happened in that tree house, I come up with this: we saw each other. It sounds simple but really, it’s a powerful thing to be seen. For the first time our sensitivities were understood as possibilities, not liabilities." #BlazeMovie
Blaze Foley is often regarded as an unsung hero of the Texas Outlaw Country Music movement. Some of his most popular songs include ‘Clay Pigeons,’ ‘Small Town Hero,’ ‘If I Could Only Fly,’ and ‘Election Day.’ As for why Hawke chose him as the subject of his movie, the actor said, “I’ve loved Blaze’s music for a long while and like many have been moved by the events of his life, but after reading Sybil Rosen’s beautiful memoir, this project became a priority. Now we hope to bring his heartbreaking story and musical brilliance to a much larger audience.”
How Did Blaze Foley Die?
The musician died on February 1, 1989. The 6 feet and 280-pound man was shot to death with a .22 caliber shotgun. It snowed on the day of his funeral, but it was still packed with people. Guitarist Mickey White also passed around lyrics to ‘If I Could Only Fly.’ His casket was also coated with duct tape. It was his favorite “accessory” that he used on his shoes to imitate the newer country singers.
The years after his death cemented Foley’s legacy in a way that never happened when he was alive. Though his loved ones acknowledged his compassion and kindness, Foley was also regarded as an alcoholic with a penchant for whiskey, and he died with virtually no money to his name. After his death, some previously unreleased songs were released for his fans, and since then, many musicians have gone on to write songs as a tribute to him.
Who Killed Blaze Foley?
The fatal shot was fired by Carey January, the son of Concho January (who was friends with Foley.) Blaze and Carey were already not fond of each other, but the musician had a great relationship with Concho. When Blaze heard Carey talk to his father with utter disrespect, he refused to accept such behavior and confronted the man. The musician had even called out Carey when he thought that the son was stealing Concho’s welfare and veteran income. It must be noted that Carey was an ex convict who had already served a four-year sentence for heroin delivery in 1975.
On August 9, 1988, there was an incident than incriminated Foley. What had happened was that the police received a disturbance call at 706 W. Mary St. A very intoxicated Foley and a neighbor were sitting on the steps with ax handles in their hands. The songwriter admitted to the cops that he had struck Carey, but only did so to protect Concho from being mistreated at the hands of his own son. Blaze Foley received 180-days of probation and a court order to attend a minimum of two Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week.
The final altercation between the two resulted in Foley’s death. In February 1989, the songwriter was binge drinking and landed at Concho’s house at 5 in the morning. Concho had a lady friend over as well, and the three were drinking together. Then, Carey emerged from his bedroom and shot Foley around 5:30 am. When the police arrived, the victim was laying outside and said he didn’t know what happened. He fell unconscious in a few moments and died three hours later at Brackenridge.
Where is Carey January Now?
Although Carey January was charged with first-degree murder, he was acquitted for it, leaving the supporters of Foley utterly disgusted. January claimed that he had shot Foley in self-defense, and during his testimony even stated, “He was coming at me. I could see fire in his eyes. … I had seen that look before, when he hit me with the ax handle.” Concho testified against his own son at the trial and said that Carey had shot Foley in cold blood and without provocation, but the old man was just written off as another drunken fool.
As of January 2004, Carey had lived in Los Angeles for 10 years and was 54-years old at the time. He worked as an outreach specialist. He also stated that he was getting many citations, including one by the former governor Gray Davis for his efforts to provide health insurance for the underprivileged. His current whereabouts are not public information.
Read More: Where Was Blaze Filmed?