- Last Updated: Friday, 18 September 2020 15:44
- Written by Lupe R Haas
When a song is perfectly aligned in a movie, evoking just the right emotional response from its audience, it is remembered long after the film is over. Directors and producers seek out musicians who can create such innovative scores, and here we will look at some of those special songs from movies that helped musicians make their mark.
Simon & Garfunkel
The Graduate is an iconic film that stands the test of time. One of the best parts of the movie stems from the song “Mrs. Robinson” written by Paul Simon specifically for the movie. Initially, as a musician, Simon was against doing any songs for films because he didn’t want to become known as a movie musician. The duo already had great success with the hit “The Sounds of Silence” a few years earlier, but their career hadn’t taken off. So since the script and the movie impressed him enough, Simon decided to be a part of it and created the theme song.
It’s a good thing he did, too, since it not only put Simon & Garfunkel on the map with many hit songs that followed in its success (“The Boxer” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to name a couple), but the song itself also won them grammy awards and has been used in numerous films since.
Many people do not even recognize this band’s name or the name of the lead singer Jim Kerr when brought up solo, but everyone knows the song we are talking about when we say it is from the famous 80’s movie The Breakfast Club. The end song “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” with lead character John putting his fist high in the air while walking off the football field will never be forgotten.
The song itself was not written by Kerr and his band, and because of this he was reluctant to record someone else’s material, but he was persuaded by bandmates because they figured it would help break them into more mainstream - which, sure enough, they succeeded in doing just that.
Sixpence None The Richer
Lead vocalist Leigh Nash broke into the mainstream in the 90’s with their hit song “Kiss Me” from the predictable but successful “ugly duckling” story in the film She’s All That. It did have to compete with the catchy Fatboy Slim song (with choreographed dance) from the prom scene, but the Sixpense track became the standout from the film. It was played during one of the climactic scenes, when the title character Laney makes her transformation from a shy and awkward girl with glasses to a graceful beauty; that is, until she takes that comedic tumble in her high heels.
Songs that are created specifically for movies give originality to a film, so many directors or producers will utilize agencies and services to help them with licencing music for their films to get that perfect piece. Songs or sound design like “Kiss Me” give films their uniqueness. Being unconventional is difficult to do since there are so many movies out there that have “done it before,” so creating individuality with customized music ensures the audience that they are getting something new and remarkable.
Even though she had already created four albums by 1980, singer Debbie Harry collaborated with songwriter and producer Giorgio Moroder for the movie American Gigilo starring Richard Gere to make the song “Call Me”, which was a breakout hit and finally propelled her career. The song ended up spending six weeks in a row at number one in both the United States and Canada. It was a Grammy nominee, even though it did not win, the song was most memorable from the movie and helped make Blondie a household name.
Some people (probably those who like musical theater) may know Irene Cara as the character Coco in the movie Fame (as well as singing the title song). But before that film, Irene was recognized as a star for having co-wrote the song “Flashdance...What A Feeling” for the movie Flashdance. The song became a huge success, winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song and also a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
In her early years, Lisa Loeb had formed a band with Elizabeth Mitchell called Liz and Lisa. But her breakthrough performance as a recognized and famous artist was through the Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke rom-com Reality Bites. Lisa was actually friends with Ethan, she made music for his plays when he did shows throughout New York City. Her song “Stay (I Missed You)” was introduced to him first, and he showed it to director Ben Stiller, who decided to use the song in the ending credits.
The song went on to become a number one hit in America, earning her an esteemed position as an artist to be in the Top 100 before even having been signed to a label.
Last, this well-known rock band gained breakthrough success in the 1980’s with the hit song “Eye of The Tiger” for the movie Rocky III. Sylvester Stallone himself actually approached the band to create the theme song, he wanted something with a fast tempo and heart-pumping. The song went on to win the band the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance and was also voted Best New Song by the People’s Choice Awards. It is still utilized by many wrestling teams and in boxing matches to this day.
Crafting a cohesive and effective musical score to a film might be a lost art, but with dedication and utilization of the right resources, directors and producers should always strive for originality. Whether it’s finding customizable music or working closely with an yet-unknown musical artist, you never can know when the next hit song from a movie will land because it creates just the right thematic fit into the narrative.