Is Clay Calloway a real person? He’s inspired by a music legend

The long-awaited Sing sequel introduced a broken character who we couldn’t help but empathize with and love: Clay Calloway. Sing 2 starts with Buster Moon and his group of singers attempting to impress entertainment mogul Jimmy Crystal. The group hopes Jimmy will land them a Redshore City performance, but they fail to impress the mogul. 

In a last-ditch attempt to save their bid, Gunter (Nick Kroll) suggests a musical featuring songs from Clay Calloway. Assuming that the long-lost Clay will appear on the set, Jimmy greenlights it. 

To keep their spot in Redshore city, the group must convince the recluse Clay Calloway to end his retirement and sing again. 

Clay Calloway is based on legendary American singer Cab Calloway

IMDb claims that Clay Calloway is a tribute to legendary musician Cab Calloway. 

Cab Calloway rose to fame in the Cotton Club of Harlem, New York City. He popularized the swing version of jazz and earned acclaim for his fusion of vaudeville and jazz. 

Calloway was also a skilled dancer, leading one of the most popular dance bands in the 1930s and 1940s. Cab’s popularity peaked from the early 1930s to the mid-1950s. 

Despite declining popularity, Cab continued to appear on the Billboard charts. He also made several television, stage, and film appearances before his death in 1994. 

Cab Calloway was the first African-American to sell a million songs from a single and have a nationally syndicated radio show. In 2008, he posthumously received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. 

U2 star Bono agreed to voice Clay because he resonated with the character’s grief

The familiar voice behind Clay Calloway is U2 star Bono. Director Garth Jennings said Bono was his first choice for voicing Calloway, but he was certain that the rockstar would turn down his offer. Jennings told the Irish Examiner:

“We had some designs for the character and an outline of the character but we didn’t expect to hear anything. Or if we did, it would just be a very polite, ‘we’re very grateful for your interest, but I’m afraid Bono’s very busy with 10 billion things right now.’”

Therefore, Jennings was pleasantly surprised when he received a message saying Bono would call back. It turned out that Bono was a massive fan of the movie due to its storytelling and musical diversity. 

“It was the most enthusiastic, energizing 45 minutes you could hope to have with anyone, let alone someone who you’d like to play a part in your film,” Garth said. 

On top of loving the overall project, Bono resonated with his character’s grief. Clay Calloway stopped singing after the death of his wife. Garth continued:

“He [Bono] talked a lot about grief, and the part it’s played in his life, and how, in his case, it’s where his voice sort of came from, though in the case of this character, it’s the reason he’s lost his ability to sing. He just doesn’t have a reason to sing anymore. It’s gone from him. He talked a lot about what music meant.”

“Clay Calloway is quite the character,” Bono told Rolling Stone. Bono said that helped build Clay’s character as one of his responses to Garth made it into the film. Bono continued:

“Garth Jennings asked me about singing and where it came from. I surprised myself and him by answering with a line that would make it into the film: ‘Some people sing for a living, some people sing to survive.’”