AFI: 100 Movie Songs – Part 2

A song will outlive all sermons in the memory ~ Henry Giles

Continuing the saga of the American Film Institute (AFI)’s list of 100 Greatest Movie Songs, here are Nos. 75 through 50.

OS = Oscar status, n/n: not nominated, n/e: not eligible, n/o: nomination only.

75 Up Where We Belong AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN 1982 PERFORMERS Joe Cocker, Jennifer Warnes MUSIC/LYRICS Jack Nitzsche, Buffy Sainte-Marie/Will Jennings – “The song is no good. It isn’t a hit.” Producer Don Simpson must have felt like a right prat after the song that he disliked not only shot to No.1 on the Billboard charts but also went on to win the Oscar. The gruff-voiced Cocker and the honey-voiced Warnes together created a memorable love-duet that till today brings up the image of a young, hot Richard Gere in a dazzling white naval uniform, carrying off factory worker Debra Winger in his arms, a scene parodied by Ross and Rachel on ubiquitous sitcom Friends. OS: w

74 Rainbow Connection THE MUPPET MOVIE 1979 PERFORMER Kermit the Frog (voiced by Jim Henson) MUSIC/LYRICS Paul Williams, Kenny Ascher – “Why are there so many songs about rainbows?” sang Kermit, the nod to The Wizard of Oz not at all coincidental. For like that other famous Rainbow song, this one too is about wanting more from life. And this one is almost as effective as the other one in its plaintive, sweetness. Mr. Henson, you are sorely missed. OS: n/o

73 Isn’t it Romantic? LOVE ME TONIGHT 1932 PERFORMERS Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald MUSIC/LYRICS Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart – Some things are just timeless, like this incredibly sophisticated comedy directed by the master of wit, Rouben Mamoulian, more than seventy years ago that could put any of today’s rom-com directors to shame. And like Monsieur Chevalier, he of the irrepressible, rakish continental charm, the straw boater with tux ensemble, the trademark ‘onh-onh-onh’ laughter. And the sweet soprano of Jeanette MacDonald. And finally, this wonderfully lilting, clever little ditty that has surely one of the most infectious tunes ever created. OS: Best Song Oscar not yet instituted

72 Good Morning SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN 1952 PERFORMERS Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor MUSIC/LYRICS Nacio Herb Brown/Arthur Freed – No two ways about it, this is one of the best-loved films of all time, appearing on an unprecedented FOUR of the AFI’s lists – Best Movie Songs, Best Musicals, Funniest Comedies and Greatest American Movies of all time. And one of the reasons has to be this treasure of a song that comes at a point in the film when the characters realize that there is never a good enough reason to lose all hope because a bright, new, sunny morning is always just around the corner. OS: n/e

71 Yankee Doodle Boy, The YANKEE DOODLE DANDY 1942 PERFORMER James Cagney
MUSIC/LYRICS George M. Cohan – James Cagney won an Oscar playing George M. Cohan, the man considered the father of American musical comedy. The song, a patriotic number about the pride the singer feels in being American, was originally written for one of Cohan’s theatrical productions, Little Johnny Jones, in 1904. But Cagney’s is the definitive performance of it; surprising considering that prior to Yankee, he was best known for gangster and tough-guy roles, famously smashing a grapefruit into his lady friend’s face in The Public Enemy. Now is that something a good ole Yankee Doodle Boy would do? OS: n/e

70 Summer Nights GREASE 1978 PERFORMERS John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Ensemble MUSIC/LYRICS Jim Jacobs, Warren Casey – Despite Randal Kleiser’s pedestrian direction and unimaginative choreography and camerawork, the screen version of Broadway smash Grease is still a classic, with Travolta’s leather-clad hep cat Danny and Newton-John’s goody-goody Aussie Miss Sandy one of the most memorable of on-screen couples. This song, a raunchy and funny he-said-she-said reminisce-fest – “He was sweet, just turned eighteen/
Well she was good, you know what I mean” – that ends with Travolta’s unforgettable falsetto note, is a highlight, only just besting the immortal ‘You’re The One That I Want’. OS: n/e

69 On the Good Ship Lollipop BRIGHT EYES 1934 PERFORMER Shirley Temple MUSIC/LYRICS Richard A. Whiting/Sidney Clare – When a song has been referenced on both The Simpsons (twice) and Star Trek (“Not the Enterprise, the Lollipop… it’s a good ship”), that should be indication enough of its legendary status. This thoroughly infectious novelty tune, with its near-surreal imagery – “see the sugar bowl/do the tootsie-roll/with the big bad devil’s food cake” – is the trademark song of Shirley Temple, inarguably the greatest, most popular child star of all time. Contrary to popular belief, the ship in question was not a sea-going vessel, but an aircraft. OS: n/n

68 Streets of Philadelphia PHILADELPHIA 1993 PERFORMER Bruce Springsteen
MUSIC/LYRICS Bruce Springsteen – The Boss traveled far, far away from the days of ‘Born in the
USA’ to this aching, melodic dirge about the plight of a gay man living and dying with AIDS. “I walked the avenue till my legs felt like stone/I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone/At night I could hear the blood in my veins/Just as black and whispering as the rain/
On the streets of Philadelphia.” OS: w

67 Nobody Does it Better THE SPY WHO LOVED ME 1977 PERFORMER Carly Simon
MUSIC/LYRICS Marvin Hamlisch/Carole Bayer Sager – The first James Bond theme song to be titled differently from the title of the movie, ‘Nobody Does it Better’ headlined a decidedly disco-oriented soundtrack, in keeping with the times. It remains popular today and has been used frequently in other films, most recently in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The title of course begs the question, just what is it that Mr.007 does so well? As if we didn’t know. OS: n/n

66 Suicide is Painless M*A*S*H 1970 PERFORMER Johnny Mandel MUSIC/LYRICS Johnny Mandel/Mike Altman – For many, many years, many, many people who saw the TV show in reruns but were too young to have seen the movie original, believed the sweetly melancholic tune that played over the titles of M*A*S*H was just that – a tune. It took the movie’s release on VHS to remind everyone that it was a song with, you know, words. And they were some pretty special words, penned by Mike Altman, the then-14-year-old son of the movie’s director, the late great Robert Altman, and sung by prolific composer Johnny Mandel. In yet another fit of extreme artistic near-sightedness, the Academy failed to even nominate the song for an Oscar. No matter. As Altman Sr. pointed out, while he got $70,000 to direct the movie, his son earned more than a million for writing the song. Take that! OS: n/n

65 I Will Always Love You THE BODYGUARD 1992 PERFORMER Whitney Houston
MUSIC/LYRICS Dolly Parton – Call me a wooden-hearted party-pooper but this sickly, chocolaty bazillion-selling version of Parton’s country gem leaves me a trifle chilly.
Houston’s vocal acrobatics might have had the critics sighing but it has more than a whiff of OTT for me. OS: n/e

64 My Favorite Things THE SOUND OF MUSIC 1965 PERFORMER Julie Andrews MUSIC/LYRICS Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II – Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens/ bright copper kettles, and warm woolen mittens… Honestly, when it comes to comfort music, is there anything as endearing, and enduring, as this ode to the innocence and simplicity of childhood? As always, Julie Andrews is note-perfect, her crisp enunciation ideally suited to the role of the carefree governess. OS: n/e

63 Thanks for the Memory THE BIG BROADCAST OF 1938 1938 PERFORMERS Bob Hope, Shirley Ross MUSIC/LYRICS Ralph Rainger/Leo Robin – When it came to making Depression-era and wartime audiences laugh, nobody could best Mr. Hope. But who knew the man could also sing. And how! This gentle, nostalgia-infused tune would become his signature song. Thanks for all the memories indeed. OS: w

62 Beauty and the Beast BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 1991 PERFORMER Angela Lansbury
MUSIC/LYRICS Alan Menken/Howard Ashman – Generally acknowledged as a return to form for Disney animation, Beauty and the Beast is one of the most guilelessly romantic films ever, animated or otherwise. The film seamlessly incorporated fledgling CG into the traditional hand-drawn designs, resulting in some singularly beautiful visuals. This number, sung by veteran Lansbury as Mrs. Potts the teapot, accompanied the celebrated ballroom sequence wherein the heroine, Belle, and the Beast, unwittingly danced their way into each other’s hearts. Romance rarely gets dreamier than this. The Academy agreed: Beauty and the Beast is the only animated film to ever be nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture. OS: w

61 Get Happy SUMMER STOCK 1950 PERFORMER Judy Garland MUSIC/LYRICS Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler – For those who had always pooh-poohed Judy Garland as an ugly duckling, this fabulous number was a punch in the stomach, and a sight to behold – Dorothy was now undeniably a swan. Svelte and smoking hot dressed in nothing but a black tuxedo jacket, black nylons, high-heeled pumps and that sexy, tilted fedora, Garland belted out this jazzy ode to forgetting one’s troubles with the kind of verve and gusto that can still thrill even the most jaded listener. OS: n/e

60 It Had to Be You WHEN HARRY MET SALLY 1989 PERFORMERS Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick, Jr. MUSIC/LYRICS Isham Jones/Gus Kahn – Is there a better argument for best friends becoming paramours than this ultimate date movie? Billy Crystal and perky Meg Ryan worked the magic onscreen to Frank Sinatra’s masterful vocals of the classic song, while the sometime heir to Sinatra, Harry Connick Jr., sang his lesser version on the soundtrack. And the song itself? An immeasurably romantic paean to the ‘right’ person, even if they’re all wrong: “Some others I've seen/Might never be mean/Might never be cross/Or try to be boss/But they wouldn't do/For nobody else/Gave me a thrill/With all your faults/I love you still/It had to be you/ Wonderful you.” OS: n/e

59 Tonight WEST SIDE STORY 1961 PERFORMERS Natalie Wood (voiced by Marni Nixon), Richard Beymer (voiced by Jimmy Bryant) MUSIC/LYRICS Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim – A reimagining of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet as a love story set in NYC’s low-income ghettoes, and voted by the AFI as the second greatest musical of all time (after Singin’ in the Rain of course), West Side Story remains a monumental achievement, an immaculate blend of story, dance and music. This sonorous duet makes inspired use of the “Parting’s such sweet sorrow” sentiment from the lovers’ balcony tryst, making for one of the most sublime love songs ever. And in a superb twist, it later transforms into a call to arms by the warring ghetto gangs. OS: n/e

58 Gonna Fly Now ROCKY 1976 PERFORMERS DeEtta Little, Nelson Pigford MUSIC/LYRICS Bill Conti/Carol Connors, Ayn Robbins – Those instantly recognizable trumpet blasts quickly entered the American pop culture pantheon when they accompanied Rocky Balboa’s early morning training regimen, culminating in the iconic image of the titular boxer running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and raising his arms in a victory pose. A sporting event staple in America, ‘Gonna Fly Now’ has been reused and parodied many times. Star and director Sylvester Stallone may be onto the film’s fifth sequel, out soon, but it’s the first one that people still recall fondly. Yo, Adrian! OS: w

57 The Windmills of Your Mind THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR 1968 PERFORMER Noel Harrison MUSIC/LYRICS Michel Legrand/Alan and Marilyn Bergman – I’m more than a 100% sure that for an entire generation of Pakistanis this tune will forever be associated with an 80s ad campaign for a certain brand of cigarettes with the image of a sailor on the front, featuring a handsome angrez checking out various vintage items with a smiling lady in tow. It was originally of course the award-winning theme song from this elegant Steve McQueen-Faye Dunaway heist-romance. The film and the song were remade recently, serving to prove that the original can’t be beat. OS: w

56 Thank Heaven for Little Girls GIGI 1958 PERFORMER Maurice Chevalier MUSIC/LYRICS Frederick Loewe/Alan Jay Lerner – Now, now, don’t raise your eyebrows in that suspicious manner; it’s not what it sounds like. M. Chevalier is no dirty old man; his signature song is actually a wonderfully written, beautifully tuned ode from a kindly old gent to all the little misses who will one day grow up and break millions of male hearts. “Those little eyes so helpless and appealing/one day will flash and send you crashing through the ceiling/Thank heaven for little girls/thank heaven for them all/no matter where/no matter who/for without them what would little boys do?” OS: n/e

55 Flashdance…What a Feeling FLASHDANCE 1983 PERFORMER Irene Cara MUSIC/LYRICS Giorgio Moroder/Keith Forsey, Irene Cara – Poor, poor Irene Cara. She emerged from relative obscurity only to be returned there after scoring two monster hits and winning two Oscars for Best Song, all within a space of three years. Her career as an actress lasted even shorter. But that doesn’t take away from the brilliance of this ‘inspirational’ song whose appeal – and picturisation – lives on, most recently as the inspiration for J LO’s ‘I’m Glad’ video. OS: w

54 Shall We Dance THE KING AND I 1956 PERFORMERS Deborah Kerr (voiced by Marni Nixon), Yul Brynner MUSIC/LYRICS Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II – It’s hard to concentrate on the merits of the song when you’re distracted by the highly-charged eroticism of the song situation: a prim n’ propah Kerr in a ballroom clinch with the brutish yet undeniably sexy Brynner as the king of Siam. But that’s just what the song eulogizes, the thrill of the closeness that the first dance with one’s sweetheart brings. “Or perchance/ When the last little star has left the sky/Shall we still be together/With our arms around each other/And shall you be my new romance?” Oh yes please! OS: n/e

53 Goldfinger GOLDFINGER 1964 PERFORMER Shirley Bassey MUSIC/LYRICS John Barry/Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley – “The man with the Midas touch…” The third James Bond film starring Sean Connery, this also had some of the most unforgettable characters of the entire series: villain Auric Goldfinger, super henchman Oddjob, the deeply dippy Pussy Galore, leader of the all-lesbian gang known as the Cement Mixers, and the unfortunate Jill Masterson, memorably suffocated to death by being covered in gold paint. But the film is also remembered for its marvelous theme song by Welsh songstress Shirley Bassey whose Billie Holliday-esque tonal quality belies enormous vocal strength that comes into play in the song’s frequent soaring phases. Mme. Bassey also has the distinction of being the only artist to record more than one theme song for the Bond franchise: ‘Goldfinger’, ‘Diamonds are Forever’, and ‘Moonraker’. OS: n/n

52 Summertime PORGY AND BESS 1959 PERFORMER Diahann Carroll (voiced by Loulie Jean Norman) MUSIC/LYRICS George Gershwin/DuBose Heyward – Could the talented Mr. Gershwin have known back in 1933 when he wrote this cool, cool, cool hot tune that it would become, along with The Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’, one of the most covered songs of all time? Done over by, among countless others, Nina Simone, Janis Joplin, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Billy Idol, the Zombies, Cab Calloway, Marilyn Manson, and Beninese artist Angelique Kidjo (and Mark ‘Skywalker’ Hamill gargled the tune on The Muppet Show), in languages ranging from good ol’ English to Latvian, Maori, Polish, Japanese, Zulu and even the ‘fake’ language Esperanto, ‘Summertime’ was composed in the Aeolian mode for the 1935 all-black opera Porgy and Bess. Summertime/and the livin’s easy… OS: n/e

51 Fame FAME 1980 PERFORMER Irene Cara MUSIC/LYRICS Michael Gore/Dean Pitchford – The swan song of the ‘Me Generation’ of the 70s, this post-disco dance hit was the title tune of Alan Parker’s critically lauded look at the struggles of a group of talented teens at the New York High School of Performing Arts. Once again, Irene Cara provided the powerhouse vocals. The song’s picturisation was as far away from Fred Astaire as one can get, though almost as memorable: as the father of one of them blasts the song from his cab, the students of the school let loose – and how – on the streets of New York City, bringing the traffic to a screeching halt. Result: an anthem for a new generation. “I’m gonna live forever/I’m gonna learn how to fly…” OS: w

50 Rock Around the Clock BLACKBOARD JUNGLE 1955 PERFORMERS Bill Haley and the Comets MUSIC/LYRICS Bill Haley and the Comets – Haley was an unlikely rock star – pushing 40, pudgy and balding – Elvis Presley he sure wasn’t. But with this anthem to party as a verb, he became rock n’ roll’s first super-successful white mainstream purveyor, one full year before the ascent of The Pelvis. And who out there doesn’t the urge to get up and boogie when you hear those first notes – One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock rock… OS: n/n

Coming up next time: Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand, Public Enemy, and more. Till then, enough said!

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