I don't know how I got onto it (I'm sure there was a reason), but somehow I found myself looking at Oscar nominations for Best Original Songs; from the 1970s, of all things! I ended up listening to all the songs a bunch of times, and ranked the best. Enjoy.
The Best 1970s Oscar-Nominated Songs
#666 "Ave Satani" (THE OMEN, 1976) - Dark and Gothic, this music sets the perfect tone for the film, and somehow turns a movie about Satan's son from farce to really creepy.
#`20 "Theme from Shaft" (SHAFT,Won for 1971 ) - Before he was Chef, Isaac Hayes put himself on the map with this funky testament to Utterly Cool.
#18 "The Morning After" (THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE,Won for 1972) - Why have I never heard of Maureen McGovern before compiling this list? She had 3 songs nominated in the decade!
#18 "Blazing Saddles" (BLAZING SADDLES, 1974) - Dude, not only was his name Bart, he conquered Fear AND he conquered Hate. Whoa!
#17 "The Last Time I Felt Like This" (SAME TIME NEXT YEAR, 1978) - Otherwise known as "the movie that single-handidly killed Alan Alda's film career."
#16 "Last Dance" (THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY, Won for 1978) -I was talked into this entry at the last minute on the strength of how important it is to the film. You owe me, Donna Sumner!
#15 "Through the Eyes of Love" (ICE CASTLES, 1979) - For some reason I always get ICE CASTLES and ICE PIRATES confused. I think what I'm trying to say is that the world is crying out for a movie about ice-skating pirates. DON'T EVEN PRETEND YOU WOULDN'T WATCH!. (By the way, not only the song but the entire movie is a panty-dropper, fellas. Even a hard-core goth chick can't resist the combination of of ice-skating and Robbie Benson. You're welcome.)
#14 "Ready to Take a Chance Again" (FOUL PLAY, 1978) - Barry Manilow sang this Romantic ballad for a movie starring Chevy Chase. Feel the testosterone! Is it any wonder co-star Goldie Hawn hooked up with uber-stud Kurt Russell not long after?
[NOTE: if you look at this list, you'll notice I only have 4 of the 10 Best Original Song winners from 1970-1979. This is because I looked at the 50 nominated songs was a set without regards to who won. I listened to every song at least twice, and the ones who made the list usually 4-5 times, to get my order right. You may not agree with me, but I thought about it a lot. As for Barbara Streisand's two winning songs not included - they suck. Yes, I'm a longtime Streisand hater, but you put personal feelings aside for Official Lists. I acknowledge she can sing, but those two songs - "The Way We Were" and "Evergreen" - I'm sorry, but they are terrible. The only way I can figure they were nominated and won was because of Streisand's star power. Okay, enough banality - back to the List.]
#13 "Nobody Does It Better" (THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, 1977) - How can you not love a movie that gave us Jaws? Carly Simon, who's more Cher than Cher ever was, is sensational here.
[Since when am ever going to talk about Carly Simon again? - I wanted to point out something: last week it was revealed that the subject of "You're So Vain" was NOT Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger, Kris Krisopherson, David Bowie, David Cassidy, Cat Stevens, James Taylor or any of many other possibles, but of all (questionably herterosexual people) David Geffen, supposedly because (ironically) Simon was jealous of the attention the record mogul lavished on Joni Mitchell. Carly denies this, but it does not change my point: "You're So Vain" is now over 37 years old, and in all that time there continues to be a never-ending supply of plausible candidates. I'm not trying to cast aspersions here, but Miss Simon really enjoyed living her life,n'est pas? Okay, back to the list.]
#12 "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" (MAHOGANY, 1975) - Diana Ross is a poor black girl who becomes a successful Rome Fashion Designer. Essentially the same movie as DANCES WITH WOLVES.
#11 "Strange Are the Ways of Love" (THE STEPMOTHER, 1972) - I can discover virtually nothing about this movie other than a thin plotline from IMDB: "As part of a blackmail plot, a woman is forced to seduce her new husband's son. Complications, including murder, ensue." That's the best description of incest and murder I've ever heard:Complications ensue. Nobody could have seen that coming!
(Has anyone watched tihs movie? The song is haunting, but I just found out Larry Linville is in it. Ensuing complications AND Major Frank Burns? I have to see it now.)
#10 "Whistling Away the Dark" (DARLING LILI, 1970) - Let no one say I do not give Julie Andrews her due. She's surprisingly effective as "sultry," and when she twirls around she almost went from beautiful to sexy. Almost.
#9 "Ben" (BEN, 1972) - The song firmly established Michael Jackson as a solo artist, and while at first glance the lyrics seem genial enough (about friendship), things take a slight detour when you learn that BEN is a horror movie (a sequel, no less!) about a boy and his killer rat.
(Side note: the song was initially written for Donny Osmond, who wasn't able to record it. I can't think of two artists more qualified to sing a sappy ballad about a boy's love of his pet rat.)
#8 "Live and Let Die" (LIVE AND LET DIE, 1973) - Someone get ready to give Jeff Henderson smelling salts, but I think the Guns 'N' Roses version is better than Wings'. The song reunited McCartney with long-time Beatles producer George Martin, who later said working with Paul inspired him to create Joffrey Baratheon.
(Maybe 6 people in the world got that joke, but those who did undoubtedly pissed themselves. Don't you feel left out of the pee-fest? No? Fine, let's just move on.)
#7 "Hopelessly Devoted to You" (GREASE, 1978) - This song is great from an irony standpoint, but how does it get nominated over "Summer Nights," a culturally iconic song that happens to feature one of the most concise and profound "Anthropological Biological Determinism" (Anthrobiominism) treatises of our time.
(What, pray tell, am I talking about? Fine, since you asked nicely. Here's the lyric: [Everyone] "Uh Well-a well-a well-a huh....[Guys] Tell me more, tell me more...Did you get very far?[Girls] Tell me more, tell me more...Like, does he have a car?" Fifty thousand years of human development summed up in 11 words. BEAT THAT!)
#6 "You Light Up My Life" (YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE,Won for 1977) - The movie version was sung by Ukranian sensation Kasey Cisyk and not Debbie Boone (who won a Grammy for it the same year). The Oscar, however, goes to the songwriter, in this case the Director of the movie, Joseph Brooks, who is (I swear I'm not making this up) currently awaiting trial on 91 counts of rape and sexual abuse.
(Allegedly Brooks lured women to his house to audition for movie roles, what's known in the business as "Casting Couch" situations. If you think I haven't spent the last 20 minutes trying to come up with a "You Light Up My Life" joke here, you don't know me very well.)
#5 "Love" (ROBIN HOOD, 1973) - Okay, this song is probably 8 spots too high, but in part my ranking comes from what SHOULD have been nominated from THE most underrated Disney movie - that is to say,"Not in Nottingham,"or at the very least "Oo de Lally" or "The Phony King of England."
(By the way, if you've ever wanted to hear "Not in Nottingham" in Swedish - and you know you have -here it is. Think of a Depressed Swedish Chef in place of the normal Rooster voice.)
#4 "I'm Easy" (NASHVILLE,Won for 1975) - If ALMOST PERFECT is the most underrated movie of the 2000s, NASHVILLE is possibly the best movie about music ever, and certainly the best American movie you have never seen. "I'm Easy" was written and sung by Keith Carradine, who later on would play Wild Bill Hickok inDeadwoodand kicked ass as an FBI agent onDexteras well. That's three moments of greatness better than most will ever touch.)
[Hard to say whether it passes brother David Carradine, who got to have explicit sex with Barbara Hershey in Martin Scorsese's exploitation flick BOXCAR BERTHA, should have won an Oscar as the titular hippie-gangster in Tarantino's KILL BILL, and of course the legend that was Kane inKung Fu. David still gets the nod, but what an underrated family, right? By the way, not for nothing, but I don't believe for a minute that David killed himself in Thailand. You can't tell me it wasn't one of his Kung Fu enemies. (Actually, more likely 20 of them, to take down Kane.) For that matter, does Uma Thurman have an alibi?]
#3 "Gonna Fly Now" (ROCKY, 1976) - One of the Top Ten movie anthems ever, maybe Top Five. Clearly the track that should have been nominated, but seeing as how the 1976 winner was the excreable "Evergreen," I wish they also would have nominated "Take You Back" or "You Take My Heart Away," both from ROCKY. Listen to that theme; don't you want to eat a raw egg and go jog around Philly? Me too!
#2 "For All We Know" (LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS, Won for 1970) - If your life depended on it, AND YOU ONLY HAD 30 SECONDS TO THINK ABOUT IT, give me your Mount Rushmore of BEST Female pop voices. I'm sure ten minutes from now I will be kicking myself, but based on my gun-to-your-head criteria, I will take Joni Mitchell, Whitney, Mariah, and Karen Carpenter. Sorry Norah, Aretha, Beyonce, Alanis, and Dusty: that's my Mount Rushmore. Wait. does jazz count as pop? Billie!!!!!! Acccccch! Okay, scratch that. Drop....Damn. Um, let's come back to that another time or else I will spend the next 23 days paralyzed; trying to come up with an answer.
and the number one Song nominated for an Oscar in the 1970s is.....
#1 "The Rainbow Connection" (THE MUPPET MOVIE, 1979) - Arguably the greatest movie song of all time. Sheer perfection. What else is there to say?
Who said that every wish
Would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that
And someone believed it
And look what it's done so far.
March 5, 2010
Endnotes Before you ask - songs from previously recorded material are ineligible. That's why "Sunrise, Sunset" wasn't nominated, Mom, so quit bugging me.