Movie Music Was Boomer Music, Too

It’s Academy Awards time once again, and that got Mister Boomer thinking about movie music in the boomer era. Popular recording artists have been mining Oscar-nominated music to make hits of their own for decades before the Boomer Generation. Yet during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, there was a steady stream of songs taken from motion pictures that hit the Top 10 practically every year. Just look at this sampling:

1950: The Academy Award-winning song from Captain Carey, U.S.A., Mona Lisa, became a number one hit for Nat King Cole. Originally recorded as a B side, it didn’t become a hit until Cole did a radio publicity junket for the album, The Greatest Inventor of Them All.

1953: Dean Martin scored a hit with That’s Amore, from The Caddy. The song won an Academy-Award nomination, but Dean Martin parlayed it into his signature song for the rest of his career.

1955: The film, Unchained, gave us the song Unchained Melody. Though recorded by numerous people, it was the recording by The Righteous Brothers in 1964 that made it a bona fide classic boomer hit.

1956: Doris Day and Jimmy Stewart starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much. Doris Day sang Que Sera, Sera in the movie, and it reached number two on Billboard’s Top 100 that year. The song was used as the sitcom theme for The Doris Day Show, from 1968-73.

1959: The Theme from A Summer Place, title song from the movie of the same name, became a number one hit by Percy Faith and his Orchestra when the cover version was released in 1960.

1961: The song, Town Without Pity, from the movie of the same name, became the first big hit for Gene Pitney.

1964: James Bond films gave us memorable title songs throughout the boomer era. Arguably one of the best was Goldfinger. Shirley Bassey was given the job to sing the movie version, and it reached number 8 on Billboard’s Top 10 as a single. She later went on to sing the theme song for the 1971 Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever.

1965: The Theme from Doctor Zhivago, an instrumental that was also known as Lara’s Theme, was recorded by Ray Coniff and His Orchestra in 1966.

1965: The title song from What’s New Pussycat? became a hit for Tom Jones.

1966: Taken from the movie of the same name, The Seekers’ recording of Georgy Girl made it to number two on the charts.

1966: The first British song to ever win an Oscar, Born Free, the title song form the movie of the same name, became a Top 10 hit as an instrumental for Roger Williams. Frank Sinatra and Andy Williams, among others, covered the song with the lyrics, as it was sung for the movie opening.

1966: The title song, Alfie, lost out to fellow nominee Born Free that year. Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, it was sung by Cher over the ending credits in the American release of the film (Celia Black sang it in the UK release), but became a hit for Dionne Warwick in 1967.

1966: The Theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly demonstrates how more than one band could hit the charts with the same song. Italian composer Ennio Morricone composed the iconic song for the movie. His version reached number four on the Billboard Top 10, but many boomers recall the hit cover version by Hugo Montenegro in 1968 that peaked at the number two spot.

1967: One of the interesting facts about the movie song, Mrs. Robinson, from the film, The Graduate, is that the song hit number one for Simon & Garfunkel, edging out Hugo Montenegro’s version of The Good, the Bad & the Ugly.

1967: Originally intended for Judy Garland, Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s Theme from Valley of the Dolls was sung for the movie by Dionne Warwick, whose single version peaked at number two in 1968.

1967: Yet another Burt Bacharach and Hal David song nominated that year, The Look of Love, for the James Bond movie, Casino Royale, was sung by Dusty Springfield for the film. Her version reached the Top 40, but the song was later recorded, both as an instrumental and with lyrics, by a host of others, including Nancy Wilson, Dionne Warwick, Sergio Mendes & Basil 66, and even the Four Tops!

1968: An Oscar-winning song, The Windmills of Your Mind, was composed and recorded by Michel Legrand for film, The Thomas Crown Affair. After Andy Williams passed on singing it, Noel Harrison sang it for the movie. Dusty Springfield recorded it for her debut album and it reached the Top 40 as a single. Jose Feliciano, who performed the song for the Academy Awards broadcast that year, recorded it in 1969 as well.

1969: Another Oscar for Burt Bacharach and Hal David, the song Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head for the movie, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid was sung by B.J. Thomas. His single recording of the song reached number one on the charts that same year.

1971: When Isaac Hayes composed the Academy Award-winning song, Theme from Shaft, for the movie of the same name, it was not intended to be released as a single. It was the movie’s popularity that caused Enterprise Records to release it that year. The song quickly soared to the number one spot.

1972: That year’s Best Original Song, The Morning After, was from the movie, The Poseidon Adventure. Maureen McGovern’s cover version in 1973 hit number one and helped her receive a Grammy Award nomination in 1974 for Best New Artist.

1973: Paul McCartney’s Live and Let Die for the James Bond film of the same name was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost out that year to The Way We Were. Nonetheless, the Paul McCartney and Wings single hit number two on the Billboard charts.

1976: With all the buzz around A Star Is Born this year, boomers recall the earlier remake of the movie in the 1970s. Barbra Streisand starred with Kris Kristofferson in the movie, in which she sang the theme song, Evergreen. Streisand is given co-composer credits along with Paul Williams, another name well known to boomers. It picked up the Oscar for Best Original Song and Streisand’s version reached the top of the charts at number one that same year.

1977: Though the winner of Best Original Song, You Light Up My Life came from a relatively obscure movie of the same name. It was Debbie Boone’s cover version that year that not only hit number one, but became the longest running hit of the decade, lasting ten weeks at the top of the charts.

1978: Saturday Night Fever brought several songs by the Bee Gees to boomers’ attention. Though not nominated for an Academy Award, the soundtrack produced several hit singles for the Bee Gees, including Night Fever, I Can’t Have You, Stayin’ Alive and How Deep Is Your Love. The movie is said to have catapulted the popularity of disco, much to the chagrin of many boomers (like Mister B).

Mister Boomer didn’t necessarily like a good portion of the movie songs during his boomer years, though there were a few. Several still have a place in his collection of 45s, albums and digital music, including Town Without Pity, Unchained Melody, Georgy Girl, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Mrs. Robinson, The Look of Love and the Theme from Shaft, to name a few.

Of course, there were many other movie songs that became radio hits for boomers. What were your favorites of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, boomers?

Boomers Greeted 1969 With Hope and Trepidation

Fifty years ago, in January of 1969, the country was still reeling from the previous year. 1968 would forever be remembered as a tumultuous year, marked by violence, assassinations and an escalation of the war, mixed with hopes of peace and prosperity. A new president was elected and about to be sworn in, but his very presence divided the nation, in no small part along the Generation Gap of young and old. Television, the national highway system and an expanding economy all led to a widening of the Gap. This gave rise to the opening of the first The Gap retail store in 1969, in San Francisco, California. The store catered to boomers with a limited, but highly discounted, inventory of clothing that would appeal to the boomer generation; chief among the items was Levi’s jeans. Blue jeans had become the de facto uniform of the Boomer Generation. Jeans represented a break from the constraints of earlier generations, and exemplified the freedoms cherished by boomers to do what they wanted, when they wanted, dressed as they wanted. While not every boomer was in the streets protesting “Tricky Dick” in their blue jeans, the mistrust boomers had for the incoming president, especially when it came to Vietnam, turned out to be well warranted.

Here are some of the events that marked that month, fifty years ago:

January 5: The Space Race continued to heat up with the Soviet Union launching two space probes to Venus within a few days of each other, Venera 5 and Venera 6. The intention was that both crafts would arrive at Venus one day apart in order to cross-calibrate data collection of the planet’s atmosphere and surface before being disabled by heat or crushed by pressure. Venera 5 descended at a faster rate than Venera 6, broadcasting data for only 53 minutes, thus dooming the main goal of the mission.

January 12: Led Zeppelin released their first album in the United States. Featuring songs with titles like, Dazed and Confused, Good Times Bad Times and Communication Breakdown, boomers were immediately on board.

January 14: Lyndon Johnson gave his final State of the Union address before Congress. He only had one week left in his presidency, so it turned out to be his farewell speech to the people of the United States. He highlighted some of his accomplishments during his five-year tenure, including the passing of the Voting Rights Act (1964) and the creation of Medicare (1965). He mentioned that the unemployment rate, as 1969 began, was sitting at 3.3% and spoke of his hope for peace in Vietnam. He also spoke about the need for Social Security to keep up with the times, and urged a raise of “at least 13%” for the nation’s seniors on the program. Johnson also mentioned that though a new administration would be taking over, it did not mean a dismissal of the issues and challenges that faced his administration. On that front, he wished his successor well on behalf of the American people.

January 15: The Soviet Union launched Soyuz 5 with the intention of docking with Soyuz 4, which was launched a few days earlier, and in orbit. The spacecrafts were manned and became the first ever to dock in space. Cosmonauts on board became the first ever to transfer from one craft to the other via a spacewalk before both vehicles headed back to Earth.

January 20: Richard Nixon was inaugurated as the 37th President of the United States.

January 22: An assassination attempt on Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev failed. An army deserter, Victor Ilyn, fired shots at Brezhnev’s motorcade, killing a driver and injuring several cosmonauts who were riding with Brezhnev in the motorcade. Ilyin was captured and, while facing the death penalty, was declared insane. He was placed in solitary confinement in a mental hospital for twenty years.

January 26: Elvis began recording what turned out to be his comeback album at the American Sound Studios in Memphis. Among the songs that became hits from the sessions were, Suspicious Minds, In the Ghetto and Kentucky Rain.

January 28: A massive oil spill from an off-shore well occurred off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. It caused the closing of the harbor as oil leached onto the beaches. It was the first oil spill that was ever given coverage on TV as images of sludge-covered seals and sea birds reached into homes across the country. Historians say this event galvanized the people of the state and marked the beginning of state — and later, national — environmental legislation. The disaster inspired Senator Gaylord Nelson (Democrat, Wisconsin) to create the first Earth Day in 1970. Long a proponent of conservation issues, Senator Nelson wanted Earth Day to be a grass-roots effort by the people, with the goal of making the nation’s city, state and national governments aware of environmental issues.

January 30: The Beatles gave their last public performance on the roof of Apple Studios in London. After a few songs, including Get Back and Don’t Let Me Down, noise complaints from nearby office buildings brought the police to the roof to shut the impromptu concert down. The 42-minute show was filmed and recorded with two eight-track machines in the basement, five floors below, and became the basis of the Let It Be film and album in 1970.

Nixon was sworn in as president, the Space Race was going full tilt, and the Vietnam War raged on. The Beatles played on a rooftop, and Led Zeppelin hit the shores of the U.S. Fifty years ago, the month of January was a momentous beginning to what would prove to be yet another historic year in the lives of boomers.

What event from January of 1969 looms large in your memory, boomers?