Keegan-Michael Key talks seeing U2 in concert, his new film Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, and his love for Jimi Hendrix in the latest installment of Rolling Stone‘s The First Time.
Key kicks off with the first concert he ever saw: U2 on their Joshua Tree tour in Pontiac, Michigan, in 1987. He was taken by his father and stepmother, who happens to be Irish. “I wanted to go see Van Halen so bad, and my dad was like, ‘You’re not gonna go see Van Halen,’” he says. “They were my chaperones, but really, it’s because they wanted to go to the concert, too.” He recalls how much he loved U2 and their album Under a Blood Red Sky. “I think I still have the  tour shirt someplace in a box,” he adds.
He also discussed reading the script for his new film Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, released on Netflix earlier this month. “I wanted to be part of this bold idea that [director] David Talbert was going to coalesce this Anglo-Saxon 19th century culture with modern-day African American culture,” he says. “If you’re gonna do a Christmas movie you just assume, ‘Oh, it’s black people in a Christmas movie, so it’s gonna be in the city — it’s going to be Chicago, New York — like The Wiz.‘ He just skipped over all that. I just thought it was brave and inspired.”
“Fire” was the first Jimi Hendrix song Key ever listened to. “I became a voracious collector,” he says. “It got crazy. November 24th every year I’d wear black, because that’s his birthday, and I’d wear black again on September 18th, when he died. He is, to this day, my favorite recording artist. I loved rock music so much, but remember, I lived in Detroit in the Eighties. Hip-hop was starting and I lived in a place where soul music, Motown, was partially created. But I liked Steve Miller. When I saw a person who looked like me, who wasn’t only playing that music — was the best at that music — it ignited my sense of identity for myself as a person of color.”
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