A Dime On: 10 Amazing Songs that came from Forgettable Movies
The history of film is a very rich one, and as such, it has made such a huge impact on everyone’s lives as we know it, in all kinds of ways. The first feature length film ever, a silent film called A Birth of a Nation, practically resurrected the KKK in the USA. Kids growing up with the 90’s threw out lines like: “I’ll be back,” and “Hasta La Vista…. Baby,” and watch the coverage of the world premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 then tell me that it has had no impact on the world, if not to you personally.
One such area is in the realm of music. Granted music is the older medium and in many ways exists on its own (though MTV’s been blurring those lines since its first airing), but it has evolved in many ways as well along side film. There have been a lot of movies that have had great songs, but also interesting is that there are a lot of songs that got their start from relatively mediocre movies. This is the side that I wanted to explore, some hit songs that we all know today, but whose origins came from film.
So today I’m going to count down 10 songs that eventually became much bigger than the movie for which they were originally written. So this already leaves out anything from the Sound of Music and Singin’ in the Rain, because, frankly, you can’t separate the songs from the movie. These are songs that came out and have become much more popular than their film counterparts, proving once and for all that even bad movies have something to offer to the world.
1) The Prayer by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli – Movie: Quest for Camelot
We all know this song. If not by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli then maybe from Josh Groban. This song has become one of the most masterfully performed pieces of music in the last decade, and it is the song that, in my opinion was one of the catalysts for the operatic style of singing becoming more appealing to the younger generation. I know it was for me. However you feel about the song, I bet you never dreamed the actual origins would be from such a mediocre Disney-ripoff.
In one of the most horrendously matched pairings I’ve ever seen in a film, the song was performed by the mother of the lead character, Kayley, as she watches her daughter ride away from a bunch of weird looking bad guys, who have been fused together with weapons, riding on wild boars. Then an “action packed” chase sequence ensues, and I kid you not, on of the people chasing Kayley is a chicken with an axe for a beak. Not the imagery you think of when you hear the song now would you.
2) Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah by James Baskett – Movie: Song of the South
As a kid, I grew up listening to this song on my Disney Sing-A-Long VHS tape, and until now it still proves to be one of my favorite Disney songs EVER. But nowadays absolutely no one knows the movie that it came from, and there’s a reason for that. Song of the South has virtually disappeared from circulation because of racial undertones. The movie follows this kid who decides to sneak out of his plantation in the farmlands of Georgia in order to find his dad in the city of Atlanta. He is sidetracked by the voice of a black man named Uncle Remus who is telling stories about a character named Br’er Rabbit. What follows is a movie that jumps between real-life and animation, as can be seen in this video. The problem is, the section where this song is, its called Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby. I think we can all see where this is heading.
So now, there are virtually no full copies of that movie, but this song lives on, having been a staple in Disney music for over half a decade, in fact still often being played in its many theme parks. Here’s hoping that it doesn’t get washed away among the sea of Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus and Jonas Brothers albums.
3) Heaven by Bryan Adams – Movie: A Night in Heaven
One of my favorite Bryan Adams songs, and definitely one of the most romantic songs to ever come out of the 80’s, it was interesting to note that Heaven actually was written to be the title track of the movie A Night in Heaven. So, in a movie about a speech professor, who’s going through a very rocky marriage, and her student, whom she flunked, moonlights as a stripper, who seduces her in order to get a passing grade, a romantic power ballad is born. Very appropriate, am I right?
4) Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan- Movie: Pat Garret and Billy the Kid
This song, and a few others were written by Bob Dylan for his first dramatic roll in this western film about the sheriff Pat Garret chasing down his old friend and wanted outlaw, Billy the Kid. The song, about a deputy who sees the end of his life coming, fits in pretty well with the movie. Its a shame that so few people know of the film.
The director, Sam Peckinpah had very vocal arguments with MGM, and when he finished filming, the movie was taken from him by the studio and re-edited heavily before being released in 1974. As a result, the movie sucked pretty badly, and the only good things to come out of it were the songs. But in 1988, Peckinpah released a director’s cut of the movie, which was actually very entertaining to watch. And with a Bob Dylan soundtrack, this movie has many critics agreeing that this film an underrated classic of its generation. I deliberately chose not to show the recording from the movie because, frankly, when I watched it, it was really, really well done, and I don’t spoil really good scenes like that. Pick up a copy of the director’s cut of this film, and I bet you you will love that Bob Dylan song more than you already do.
5) New York, New York by Frank Sinatra – Movie: New York, New York
When you think of the classic anthem of the Big Apple, sung by one of its favorite sons, Frank Sinatra, what decade do you lump it in? In the 40’s, during Sinatramania? In the 50’s, 60’s? What if I told you that Frank Sinatra released the song New York, New York in 1980, recorded in 1979 when Sinatra was already 65? Shocked and surprised?
Actually the original song was written for Liza Minelli, who along with Robert De Niro, starred in the Scorsese musical/drama New York, New York, which was released in theaters in 1977. This box office bomb saw the two as a musical and romantic duo detailing their exploits to make it big in the City that Never Sleeps. The song is quite cabaret, is it not?
I find it incredibly awesome that Frank Sinatra took this fledgling little song, in the twilight of his career, and turned into the song that practically defines who he is. It makes for a great little story, doesn’t it?
6) Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers – Movie: Unchained
Everyone knows the Righteous Brothers’ classic single. And I know what you’re thinking: “Hey! Didn’t this come out in 1990 in the movie Ghost, during that pot-making scene? but that’s a popular scene!” True, but before it became a mega-hit in that movie, it was actually recorded for a 1955 prison flick Unchained, hence Unchained Melody. The film is about a prisoner who is torn between serving out his sentence or escaping prison because he misses his wife and child badly. So if you think about it, the song is pretty appropriate as it talks about longing and the pain of separation from the one you love. But this movie rarely sees any screen time anymore, whereas this song has lived on for much longer, ironically, because of another film.
7) The Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston- Movie: The Greatest
When you make a movie about Muhammad Ali, starring Muhammad Ali, what’s the first idea you have for a theme song? Eye of the Tiger? Final Countdown? While these songs would be perfect for riling up a crowd and getting the blood pumping, the filmmakers chose to go in another direction, a totally opposite direction. They instead went with the power ballad The Greatest Love of All, because when you think of: “I believe the children are the future,” you think of Muhammad Ali. The song was originally recorded by George Benson as the opening theme of the 1977 movie, and the lyrics were written by Linda Creed about her fight against breast cancer, just in case it wasn’t weird enough to be in a boxing movie.
Linda Creed succumbed to her illness in 1986, the same year that her song became a smash hit when it was released in Whitney Houston’s first album.
8) Ben by Michael Jackson- Movie: Ben
I used to think that Ben was about Michael Jackson’s pet rat. Actually, it wasn’t about Michael’s pet rat, but it did come from a movie. Ben is a film about a kid named Dave when he finds a rat named Ben. He takes care of him and develops a loving relationship, until he finds out that Ben is the gay leader of a group of telekinetic rats who cause untold chaos around the city. If any of you have seen the 2003 remake of the movie Willard, starring Crispin Glover, just know that after Willard, Ben takes control of that giant group of rats.
The theme song was given to Michael Jackson and it became his first solo hit, drawing tears from people until today. Bet if they all knew where it originally came from, shedding a tear may not be so easy.
9) Endless Love by Diana Ross and Lionel Ritchie – Movie: Endless Love
Endless Love is another romantic song that got its start from a relatively obscure film. Endless Love is a movie directed by Francisco Zeffirelli (most known for his 1968 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet) starring Brooke Shields. This story about young high school couple who can’t keep it in their pants for a month, so the guy decides to set fire to the girlfriend’s house so that he can come along and save the house. (How could this plan possibly go wrong?) Long story short, it does, and what started out as a cute lovely couple turned into arson and a couple more levels worse as the movie goes on.
This is the backdrop of Dianna Ross’ best-selling single ever. Niiice.
10) Against All Odds by Phil Collins – Movie: Against All Odds
Against All Odds is a great single by Phil Collins, and the film of the same name is a neo-noir movie starring Jeff Bridges as a down-and-out football player and James Woods as a shady nightclub owner who’s been gambling through Jeff Bridges’ point shaving scheme. Oh and they’re both in love with the same girl. But the trailer makes it feel so much more like a suspense flick, one that wouldn’t mesh with Phil Collins’ soulful voice.
10 great songs, 10 obscure flicks. :) Till next time!