Netflix’s ‘A Jazzman’s Blues’ follows the story of a man named Bayou. He’d fallen in love with Leanne when he was very young and despite all the hurdles in their path, he never moved on from her. Throughout the film, we find Bayou being warned by people around him not to pursue Leanne. Both of them are told that things could end very badly for them, especially for Bayou, if someone found out about them. Still, the couple is so hopeful about being together and starting their life anew that they don’t see it coming when everything comes crashing down on them. Here we analyze the events that lead to the heartbreaking fate of Bayou and Leanne’s love story. SPOILERS AHEAD
A Jazzman’s Blues Plot Synopsis
Bayou and Leanne were teenagers when they met and fell in love. They’d wanted to run away together, but before that could happen, Leanne was taken away by her mother to Boston. Bayou spends years writing to her, but none of his letters reach Leanne. Eventually, however, they meet each other again, but this time, the situation is a lot direr than it was before. Now, Leanne is passing as a white person and is married to the man who is to be the mayor of the town which is racist, through and through. While Leanne feels trapped in a marriage that she was forced into by her mother, seeing Bayou again gives her hope. However, their reunion is short-lived when Leanne’s mother wrongfully accuses Bayou of whistling at Leanne. This angers the white men of the town and they decide to make Bayou pay for it. Before they can kill him, he runs away to Chicago.
A Jazzman’s Blues Ending: Why Does Willie Earl Betray Bayou?
From the beginning of the film, we find a strong sibling rivalry between Willie Earl and Bayou, with a major part of it exhibited by the older sibling. Bayou is treated as an outcast within his family, and his father favors Willie Earl, mainly because he learned to play the trumpet quicker. While Bayou has a beautiful voice, he could never do what his father wanted, while Willie Earl dedicated himself to the man. When their father leaves for Chicago, Willie Earl doesn’t bat an eye before following him, even though he is told not to.
Sheltered by his father, Willie Earl grew up believing that he was better than Bayou in every aspect. While he was good at playing trumpet, his talent didn’t make him stand out. Still, much like his father, Willie Earl was delusional about his abilities. He had big dreams and he might even have achieved them, but he was simply not dedicated enough for it, unlike Bayou. It was Willie Earl’s plan to go to Chicago and become a successful musician. He spends years in the city, to no avail. When he crosses paths with Ira, he thinks he might finally have it all. But then circumstances lead to Bayou accompanying them on the trip, which is where everything starts to go south for Willie Earl.
Ira knew that Willie Earl needed something more if he wanted to make it as a musician. The spark that he lacked, Ira finds in Bayou. When the time comes to audition, it is Bayou who stays and actually auditions, as opposed to Willie Earl who leaves when the first trouble comes along the way. Still, Ira gets the gig for both brothers, tagged along with the actual deal that is signed by Bayou. As his younger brother flourishes, Willie Earl’s career starts to go downhill. He gets hooked on drugs, which further affects his work ethic. As Bayou finds more success, Willie Earl becomes jealous of him. He starts resenting him for taking away what should have been rightfully his. He was the one who followed after their father and spent all that time in Chicago trying to make it. But here was Bayou, who had things served to him on a silver platter and took everything away that Willie Earl had worked for.
The final straw for Willie Earl arrives when he is fired. He doesn’t stop to think that his addiction and the problems that he created at the workplace might have something to do with it. Instead, he blames it all on Bayou and he wants him to pay for it. It is when Bayou decides to go back home that his older brother finds his opportunity. Everyone knew how dangerous it was for Bayou to be there. But Bayou reckons that Leanne’s husband and his brother would probably not remember him because enough time had passed. Once back in town, Willie Earl goes straight to the sheriff and not only reminds him about Bayou but also tells him exactly where to find his brother. This leads the mob to descend on Bayou and kill him.
Is Jonathan Bayou’s Son?
Leanne had never wanted to marry John. She was forced to do it by her mother who believed that marrying a white man from a well-off family would secure her future. When she saw Bayou again, Leanne was reminded of her first love and indulged in an extramarital affair that eventually proved lethal to Bayou. In this short reunion, Leanne ended up getting pregnant. Before she could tell Bayou about it, he was forced to run away to Chicago to save his life. Fortunately for Leanne her son was born with skin light enough to pass off as white, so no one ever suspected that he was not her husband John’s son.
Years later, when Bayou returns, Leanne becomes hopeful again. This time, she hopes, that she’ll finally get to be with the man she actually loves, but all her hopes and dreams are shattered when Bayou is killed by the mob that had been out for him since her mother’s accusation. With him gone, Leanne has no other option but to return to her life and go on about it as usual. Her son, Jonathan, grows up as a white person, never knowing who his father really was. Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, he runs for becoming mayor. His speeches reflect his racist nature, and finally, Hattie Mae, Bayou’s mother, decides that it’s time to reveal the truth to him.
She visits his office, asking him to look into a murder that happened more than four decades ago. Jonathan is clearly not interested in handling a case that happened before he was born and is connected to the death of a black man. Still, Hattie Mae leaves behind Bayou’s letters for Jonathan. He is about to throw them into a corner when he reads his mother’s name on them. It is through the letters that he finds out about Leanne and Bayou.
In the end, we discover that Leanne is still alive. She is very old now, but her memories are not withered. She lights up when Jonathan brings her Bayou’s letters and her reaction is enough for him to confirm what he had suspected. John wasn’t his real father, it was Bayou. His mother had kept this secret hidden her entire life because she knew that once it came out, both she and her son would be killed. Now, Jonathan, who had recently vowed on television to push the white supremacist agenda of his predecessors, reconsiders his identity and entire existence.
Read More: Is A Jazzman’s Blues Based on a True Story?