Thursday, 24 January 2013

Academy Awards - Best Song

Academy Awards – Best Song

In last years' February show we celebrated all things ‘OSCAR’ and the music we played on the show was made up of songs which had won the Academy Award for best song.

The category was not introduced until the 7th Annual Academy Awards in 1934 and the first winner was ‘The Continental’ from The Gay Divorcee. At this time the nominees could include any song which had been included in a film. In 1941 the eligibility rules changed meaning only songs written especially for the movie qualified.  It has become common for films adapted from successful musicals to include a song written principally for the film in order for them to qualify. Songs containing samples (e.g. ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’) are not eligible.

We tried to cover as many decades as we could and started with 1949’s winner ‘Baby it’s Cold Outside’ from the film Neptune’s Daughter.  The song was written by Frank Loesser, originally for him to perform with his wife at the end of parties, before selling it to MGM.  The song is performed twice in the film by two different couples and with the gender roles revered.  The version we played was by Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews but the song has also been covered by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan, Louis Armstrong and Velma Middleton, Ray Charles and Betty Carter and Barry Manilow and K. T. Olsen.  It also appeared again on film in the 1991 movie For the Boys this time performed by Bette Midler and James Caan.

Next up was 1950’s ‘Mona Lisa’ from the film Captain Carey USA (Ray Evans and Jay Livingston).  Most movie buffs will recognise the song more from 1954’s Rear Window and 1986’s Mona Lisa. We played Nat King Cole’s Version.

In 1954 Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn won with ‘Three Coins in the Fountain’ from the film of the same name. The song was written in an hour with the writers not having seen the script.  Although the song was recorded by Frank Sinatra for the film, Fox neglected to put the writers under contract so they were able to cash in on their success by recording and releasing a version covered by The 4 Aces.  We played two Sinatra tracks on this show (any excuse) as Sammy Cahn won again in 1957, this time with Jimmy Van Heuseon for ‘All the Way’ from The Joker is Wild.

Ray Evans and Jay Livingston won again in 1956 (their third win in a row) with ‘Que Sera Sera’ from Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much.  On the show we played the version by Oregon ‘little orchestra’ Pink Martini. The (grammatically incorrect) phrase appears in Marlow’s Dr Faustus and will be well known to British readers as a football chant with “be will be” rhymed with “Wem-ber-ley”.

Probably the most loved Oscar winning song is Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini’s ‘Moon River’ from 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The song was written specifically for Audrey Hepburn’s voice and was almost edited out of the final cut.  Andy Williams recorded a version of it which he performed at the following years’ ceremony.  ‘Moon River’ must qualify as the most covered song EVER, having been recorded by Art Blakey, Aretha Franklin, Lena Horne, Nico Fidenco (in Italian), Bobby Solo (in Italian), Louis Armstrong, Vic Damone, Sarah Brightman, Perry Como, Judy Garland, Johnny Mathis, Morrissey, R.E.M., Katie Meluia, The Killers, Rod Stewart and The Divine Comedy.  A Spanish version appears in the film Bad Education and they song has featured twice in the TV Show Frasier (seasons 1 and 11).

Mercer and Mancini won again the next year for ‘The Days of Wine and Roses’ from the film of the same name starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remmick.  In 1963 the song was covered by (OK, watch out for this guy) Andy Williams.

Another song which almost didn’t make the final cut was 1966 winner ‘Born Free’ written by John Barry and Don Black. The song also features in Madagascar and was covered the following year by…, you guessed it, Andy Williams.

A guilty pleasure; we got to play The (glorious) Carpenters version of 1970’s winning song ‘For all we Know’ from the film Lovers and Strangers.  Readers may be surprised to learn this was not the version used in the film; it was originally recorded by Larry Meredith. Although The Carpenters version as the most successful, reaching No 3 on the Billboard chart, The Carpenters were not allowed to perform at the Oscars ceremony so the song was sung by Petula Clarke instead.

The 80s saw some blockbuster winners, we played ‘Up Where we Belong’ from An Officer and a Gentleman, ‘’Flashdance’ from the 1983 film of the same name and Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’ from The Woman in Red which stayed at the top of the Billboard chart for three weeks and the UK charts for six.

Film lovers may scoff at Madonna’s contribution to cinema but during the 1990s she was responsible for performing two Academy Award winning songs.  ‘Sooner or Later’ from Dick Tracy won in 1990, written by the wonderful Stephen Sondheim. Madonna took songs from the film on tour and no doubt contributed to the film’s commercial success.  Her performance of the song at the 1991 Academy Awards ceremony has been voted “the 7th Most Awesome Oscar Performance “by Billboard.   The top spot, in case you were wondering was  taken by Three 6 Mafia for their 2006 performance of ‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” In 1996  Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice won with ‘You Must Love Me’ written for the musical Evita and also performed by Madonna.

Usually the music takes a back seat on the show and we don’t usually get so many great songs to choose from, so this was a particularly memorable broadcast.  We’re back on air this Saturday 26th covering Leone’s Dollars Trilogy (I’m sooo excited) and will be returning to our usual “tenuous link” formula music wise.  We’ll be playing some of Ennio Morricone’s incredible scores for the movies, of course, as well as a snippet from Sato’s Yojimbo score, but we’re currently sorting through songs with “Guns” or “Gold” in the title, so any suggestions will be gratefully received!

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