Welcome back to another installment of Soundtrack Saturday’s look at Best Original Song nominees from days of old.
This week, the specific day of old we’re looking at is 1983 and the 55th Academy Awards, featuring the weirdest roster of hosts possibly ever. Richard Pryor probably wondered how the hell he got roped into this gig. Maybe he owed one of the producers for some coke?
A quick recap of the 1983 ceremony:
The 55th Academy Awards
Date of telecast: April 11, 1983
Hosts: Liza Minnelli, Dudley Moore, Richard Pryor, Walter Matthau
(Per Academy rules, all nominated films were released between January 1 and December 31, 1982, in Los Angeles County, California.)
Best Picture: Gandhi
Best Actor: Ben Kingsley, Gandhi
Best Actress: Meryl Streep, Sophie’s Choice
Best Supporting Actor: Louis Gosset, Jr., An Officer and a Gentleman
Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Lange, Tootsie
Best Director: Richard Attenborough, Gandhi
Not much in the way of fun facts here.
- This was the year Meryl Streep won her first Best Actress Oscar, after previously being nominated for The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981) and winning Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). She would go on to be nominated for Best Actress 13 more times over the next 30 years.
- Louis Gosset, Jr. became the first African-American actor to win Best Supporting Actor.
- Best Supporting Actress winner Jessica Lange was also nominated for Best Actress for her performance in Frances. Lange’s win was the only one for Tootsie, which had been nominated for 10 Oscars. Sad face for Tootsie.
- Gandhi won pretty much every award for which it was nominated (it got 11 nominations and won 8).
And now, a look at our category …
The Oscar went to:
“Up Where We Belong” (performed by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes; music by Jack Nitzsche and Buffy Sainte-Marie, lyrics by Will Jennings) from An Officer and a Gentleman.
“Eye of the Tiger” (performed by Survivor; music and lyrics by Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan) from Rocky III.
“If We Were in Love” (performed by Luciano Pavarotti; music by John Williams, lyrics b y Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman) from Yes, Giorgio.
“It Might Be You” (performed by Stephen Bishop; music by Dave Grusin, lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman) from Tootsie.
“How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” (performed by Patti Austin and James Ingram; music by Michel Legrand, lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman) from Best Friends.
I really don’t think any of the other nominees had a chance of beating “Up Where We Belong.” It is exactly the kind of song the Academy loves, and the fact that it was a huge hit — it was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks — was just icing on the cake. Interestingly, it almost got cut from the film entirely because producer Don Simpson didn’t think it was any good and wouldn’t be a hit. Clearly, Don Simpson needed to shut his pie hole. In addition to its Academy Award nomination and win, “Up Where We Belong” won the Golden Globe and BAFTA for Best Original Song. Cocker and Warnes also received a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or a Group with Vocal. So, yeah, this song pretty much had a lock on the win the moment its first notes were heard in the film.
As I was researching our next nominee, “Eye of the Tiger,” I learned that it was written at the request of Sylvester Stallone after he couldn’t get permission to use Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” as the theme for Rocky III. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around that. Can you imagine that song being used in this film? It’s a bizarre choice, and it’s a good thing that Sly couldn’t get his hands on it because “Eye of the Tiger” is synonymous with this movie. THE TITLE IS IN THE DIALOGUE A WHOLE BUNCH. I mean, c’mon.
The version of the song that appears in the Rocky III is slightly different than the one released on Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger album, mainly because of the presence of tiger growls. I’m guessing the tiger growls are what tipped the scales in its favor with the nominating committee.
“Eye of the Tiger” was a ginormous hit, topping both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Mainstream Rock charts. Its video also gained a ton of airplay on the still-pretty-new MTV. And it got a ton of plays in my dad’s car and on my tiny tape player, making it a smash in the Stitzel household.
Survivor did not perform “Eye of the Tiger” at the Oscars ceremony. It was performed by Sandahl Bergman, an actress and singer you’ve probably never heard of who mostly performed on Broadway and who is best known to film audiences for her role as Valeria in Conan the Barbarian (1982). Does anyone know why Survivor didn’t get to perform their signature song? Or why the telecast producers asked this woman to sing it instead? I’m completely baffled by this decision. I’m guessing the Academy was just scared of a rock band.
The remaining three nominees all have one thing in common: they all feature lyrics written by the powerhouse songwriting duo of Alan and Marilyn Bergman. One is really great, one is perfectly fine, and one is a giant turd. Let’s talk about the turd first.
“If We Were In Love” should be a wonderful song. Its music was written by the great John Williams and it’s performed by the great Luciano Pavarotti. But it is not a wonderful song. It is a terrible song. It is schmaltzy and boring and was not really made for someone like Pavarotti to sing. It’s just…ugh. (And from what I understand, most people feel the same way about Yes, Giorgio). How the hell did this thing get nominated for an Academy Award? I took a look at the nominees in this category from other awards shows to see what could’ve taken its place here. I would’ve been fine with a David Bowie nomination.
“If We Were In Love” was not performed at the ceremony at all, I’m guessing because either Pavarotti couldn’t fit it into his schedule or he was too butthurt about being nominated for a Razzie for his performance in Yes, Giorgio. I’m going to pretend it was the latter.
In the “perfectly fine” category of the three Bergman-Bergman nominated songs, there’s “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” from a film I remember seeing on cable a whole bunch when I was a kid, but honestly couldn’t tell you a damn thing about it. I also think this one is kind of schmaltzy and boring, but I think it’s saved by its performers and the fact that it’s kind of a baby-making jam. It wasn’t much of a hit on the Hot 100, only making it to #45, but it get to #5 on the AC chart. I’m guessing this song was played at a lot of weddings after its release.
Lastly, we have the truly great Bergman-Bergman nominated song, which comes from a truly great film. I completely forgot about “It Might Be You” until I started writing about it for this post. Actually, I think it somehow got blocked out of my mind entirely — I didn’t recognize the title, and when listening to it again, I didn’t remember ever hearing it before until it got to the chorus. But once I did recognize it, I was like, “OH HOLY SHIT, I’M AN ASSHOLE. I LOVE THIS DAMN SONG.” As much as I enjoy “Up Where We Belong, ” I like this song more and would’ve like to have seen it win the Oscar. Or maybe I just wanted Tootsie to win more awards than it did because it’s one of my favorite movies. Poor Tootsie.
And that brings our look at another group of 1980s Best Original Song nominees to a close. Next week, we’ll explore the nominees from a year in which the Oscars telecast tied for the third lowest-rated telecast since 1966. That’ll be fun!