Posts Tagged ‘Jimmy Cliff’

A Baker’s Dozen From The Movies

June 12, 2011

Originally posted February 25, 2008

Every time I watch the Academy Awards – and that’s pretty much every year – I think a little bit about “What if?”

For a brief time in college, I dabbled in film, taking several workshops and classes and hanging around with others who did the same. I wrote a lot of short films, many of them adaptations of short stories, some of them originals. I also wrote some music for film: themes, background music and songs, written with certain projects in mind and then shelved when those projects either didn’t happen or went another way.

I thought I might actually make a living at one of those crafts in the context of filmmaking. And I might have. But I had absolutely no idea how to get from the thought of making a living in film to the actuality. So I never went that direction and became a journalist instead. I still did some other writing, more when I was teaching than when I was working at newspapers, and I still wrote songs and other music from time to time. But the movies and I have never been more than friendly strangers, not the friends I once thought possible.

I don’t regret that my path never went that direction. If it had been intended to be, I would have found my way there. But I admit that once a year, when I watch writers and songwriters collect their cherished statues, I wonder what might have been if I’d had even half a clue about what the first steps in such a path should have been.

A Baker’s Dozen of Songs From Movies
“Between Trains” by Robbie Robertson from The King of Comedy, 1983

“Songs to Aging Children Come” by Tigger Outlaw from Alice’s Restaurant, 1969

“Don’t It Feel Good To Be Free” by Edwin Starr from Hell Up In Harlem, 1974

“We Have All The Time In The World” by Louis Armstrong from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969

“Look What You’ve Done To Me” by Boz Scaggs from Urban Cowboy, 1980

“Love Theme (A Time For Us)” by Nino Rota from Romeo and Juliet, 1967

“Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” by Quicksilver Messenger Service from Revolution, 1968

“Route 66” by Manhattan Transfer from Sharkey’s Machine, 1981

“Nowhere Fast” by Fire, Inc., from Streets of Fire, 1984

“Child of the Universe” by the Byrds from Candy, 1968

“Un Homme et Une Femme (A Man and a Woman)” by Francis Lai from Un Homme et Une Femme, 1966

“The Harder They Come” by Jimmy Cliff from The Harder They Come, 1972

“Midnight Cowboy” by John Barry from Midnight Cowboy, 1969

A few notes:

A recent visitor said that among the lost treasures he’d like to hear were Jennifer Warnes’ deleted album on Reprise and the Robbie Robertson track “Between Trains” from the soundtrack to The King of Comedy. I don’t have any leads on the Warnes album, but as soon as I got the note, I wandered to the shelf where I keep my soundtracks, pulled out The King of Comedy and ripped an mp3 of “Between Trains” from the vinyl. Joining Robertson in the studio were – among others – Richard Manuel on background vocals, Garth Hudson on synthesizer and famed session drummer Jim Keltner. It’s a good track.

Some time ago, I posted Joni Mitchell’s version of her “Songs to Aging Children Come,” noting that it had been performed in the movie Alice’s Restaurant by Tigger Outlaw. I said, “Mitchell’s version – the original – is probably more accomplished, but there is an awkward earnestness in Outlaw’s version that is somehow endearing.” That still holds true, having had Outlaw’s version pop up as I listened to songs from movies last night.

The Hell Up In Harlem soundtrack by Edwin Starr is pretty good, with Starr giving fierce readings of some of the songs from Freddie Perren and Fonce Mizell. The gospelly “Don’t It Feel Good To Be Free” was the B side to one of the singles released from the film and was a pretty good track on its own.

The Quicksilver Messenger Service song was one of several rock songs used to back Revolution, a 1968 documentary on the counterculture of the late Sixties. The film’s description at All Movie Guide reads, in part: “Primarily filmed in San Francisco, this documentary features a series of interviews with those who call themselves hippies, or in some way identify with hippies. The countercultural revolution is revealed in discussions about sex, drugs, philosophy and lifestyle. Casual nudity and marijuana use is the main activity of one group. A nun who has left the order reveals her decisions to join the counterculture. Others decry the dehumanization of the modern industrial world, choosing to lead a hand-to-mouth existence. Communal living, psychedelic shows, love-ins and diverse fashion statements accompany the hippies who are many things to many people. All share a feeling of human togetherness and a live-and-let-live philosophy as they cope with the rapidly changing spectrum of social and political events in their lives.” Other groups whose music was used in the film were Country Joe & The Fish, the Steve Miller Band and Mother Earth.

“Nowhere Fast” was one of two Jim Steinman epics in the soundtrack to Streets of Fire, the rock and roll fable that came out in 1984. Overblown and overproduced? Yeah, probably. But I still like it. Every time I hear it, I find myself for a day or two with “Godspeed, godspeed, godspeed, speed us away,” running through my head.

“Child of the Universe” is a decent Byrds track that got swallowed up by the movie Candy, an atrocious 1968 film based on the “erotic” novel of the same title by Terry Southern. The book was one of those passed around surreptitiously in junior high with little notes inside the cover alerting us to the pages that had the hot stuff. The song – written by Dave Grusin – also wound up on the 1969 album Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde. The movie, available through at least one standard on-line service, is essentially unwatchable.

John Barry’s instrumental theme to Midnight Cowboy might be the best thing on this list although the preceding track, Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come” is a great recording, too, and was, I think, one of the first reggae records to get much attention outside of Jamaica.