The annual Academy Award for Best Original Song dates back to 1934 when "The Continental" took the top honor from the movie "The Gay Divorcee." The Award was actually introduced at the 7th Academy Awards ceremony. Now, as the 85th Academy Awards approaches, it just seems appropriate to get nostalgic and take a look at some of the best of the best Original Academy Award Winning Songs over the past 79 years. Warning: These songs may just trigger goose bumps. And, perhaps, you'll want to watch the movies they are attached to. One can never go wrong with good music and classic movies! Pass the 10-cent popcorn and hand over the 5-cent soda pop. (Yep, that's really going down memory lane.) Enjoy!
"Over the Rainbow" (1939) -- "The Wizard of Oz"
Music: Harold Arlen; Lyrics: Yip Harburg
Who didn't long to go "somewhere over the rainbow" where "the dreams that you dare to dream
really do come true" after Judy Garland sang what would become her signature song in the classic film "The Wizard of Oz?" In a letter to composer Harold Arlen, Garland wrote: "'Over the Rainbow' has become part of my life. It's so symbolic of everybody's dreams and wishes that I'm sure that's why some people get tears in their eyes when they hear it. I've sung it thousands of times and it's still the song that's closest to my heart.'" Yes, Judy, you are so right. We all tap into our dreams when we hear your incredible version of this song.
Watch Judy Garland sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" here.
"When You Wish Upon a Star" (1940) -- "Pinocchio"
Music: Leigh Harline; Lyrics: Ned Washington
Every child who has ever watched the movie "Pinocchio," about a wooden puppet who dreamed of becoming a real boy, has been touched, in some way, when that adorable little talking cricket, Jiminy, sang "When You Wish upon a Star." It really "makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come true." I wish I had a nickel for every time I searched for a star in the sky, when I was a kid, to make a wish. Turns out one needs more than a star to change one's fate, but hope rings eternal. I still love you Jiminy. You're my favorite cricket of all time! (Now, if I could only meet Jiminy Glick... think you could put in a good word for me you sweet little cricket? I tried "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" but that didn't work either.)
Listen to "When You Wish Upon a Star" here.
"White Christmas" (1942) -- "Holiday Inn"
Music and Lyrics: Irving Berlin
Legend has it that after Irving Berlin wrote the song "White Christmas," he told his secretary, "Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I've ever written. Heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written!" First written for the movie "Holiday Inn," it became a classic after Bing Crosby sang it in the movie "White Christmas" in 1954. The Guinness World Records in 2007 "concluded that, worldwide, Crosby's recording of 'White Christmas' has, in their estimation, sold at least 50 million copies, making Crosby's recording the best-selling single of all time." More evidence that Berlin's song was the "best song ever written," "White Christmas" is the most-recorded Christmas song; there have been more than 500 recorded versions of the song in several different languages."
Bing Crosby sings "White Christmas" here.
"Mona Lisa" (1950) -- "Captain Carey, U.S.A."
Music and Lyrics: Ray Evans and Jay Livingston
The movie "Captain Carey, U.S.A." may not be on anyone's Best Movie Classics of All Time list, but the song "Mona Lisa" can safely be called one of the best songs ever recorded by one of the greatest singers of any generation, Nat King Cole. "The soundtrack version by Nat King Cole spent eight weeks at number one in the Billboard singles chart in 1950. Also, Cole's version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1992." "Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, men have named you; You're so like the lady with the mystic smile; Is it only 'cause you're lonely they have blamed you? For that Mona Lisa strangeness in your smile?" Ah, somewhere Leonardo Da Vinci is smiling.
Listen to Nat King Cole sing "Mona Lisa" here.
"Three Coins in the Fountain" (1954) -- "Three Coins in the Fountain"
Music: Jule Styne; Lyrics: Sammy Cahn
Here's a song that puts romance up on the pedestal it belongs. "Three coins in a fountain;
Each one seeking happiness; Thrown by three hopeful lovers; Which one will the fountain bless?..." Maybe we all can't go to the Trevi Fountain in Rome to toss our coins hoping to be blessed with true love, but it seemed like a good idea after watching this classic movie. As fate would have it, the three leading ladies in the film, Dorothy McGuire, Jean Peters and Maggie McNamara... oops, let's not give the end of the movie away, but can you say: "Happy ending," boys and girls?
Frank Sinatra's version of "Three Coins in the Fountain" here.
"Love Is a Many Splendored Thing" (1955) -- "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing"
Music: Sammy Fain; Lyrics: Paul Francis Webster
Lyrics please: "Love is a many-splendored thing; It's the April rose that only grows in the early spring; Love is nature's way of giving; a reason to be living; The golden crown that makes a man a king." The movie is billed as an "American drama romance film" starring William Holden and Jennifer Jones. Good thing the song set the tone for romance in this film because "despite the film's romantic subject, Holden and Jones could barely stand each other on set. According to Holden's biography, Jones chewed garlic before close-up scenes..." OK, let's not dwell on the negative here, we still love this melody and lyrics, and who wouldn't want to slow dance with the one you love to this song? Just keep the breath mints handy.
Listen to this great rendition of "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" here.
"Moon River" (1961) -- "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
Music: Henry Mancini; Lyrics: Johnny Mercer
Audrey Hepburn introduced the film's signature song, "Moon River," which was "tailored to her limited vocal range." It may have been her performance that helped "win an Oscar for Best Song," but it was Andy Williams'' version that blew the song out of the water after he sang it at the 1962 Oscar Awards, and it soon became his signature theme song. "Moon river, wider than a mile; I'm crossing you in style some day; Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker; Wherever you're goin', I'm goin' your way." We can never, ever get enough of this song when Andy is singing. Never, ever!
Andy Williams sings "Moon River" here.
"Chim Chim Cher-ee" (1964) -- "Mary Poppins"
Music and lyrics: Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
Dick Van Dyke, thank you! Who could ever do a better version of "Chim Chim Cher-ee" than a chimney sweep? Just as, who could do a better version of "A Spoon Full of Sugar" than Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) herself? "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" was a terrific novelty song that could have also been nominated from this Disney film, but after all was said and done, "Chim Chim Cher-ee" got the nod beating out "Dear Heart" and "Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte" that year -- which proves that "A sweep is as lucky As lucky can be." (This song is definitely an earworm. Try to stop singing it, we dare you.)
Dick Van Dyke sings "Chim Chim Chere-ee" here.
"The Windmills of Your Mind" (1968) -- "The Thomas Crown Affair"
Music: Michel Legrand; Lyrics: Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman
"A debonair, adventuresome bank executive (Steve McQueen) believes he has pulled off the perfect multi-million dollar heist, only to match wits with a sexy insurance investigator (Faye Dunaway) who will do anything to get her man" in "The Thomas Crown Affair." "The Windmills of Your Mind" took the top prize over "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and "Funny Girl" that year perhaps because the Academy voters liked the tangled lyrics that seemed just perfect to wrap around a masterful bank robbery. And the melody ain't bad either!
Noel Harrison sings "The Windmills of Your Mind" here.
"Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" (1969) -- "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"
Music: Burt Bacharach; Lyrics: Hal David
What woman alive didn't want to be Katharine Ross riding on the handlebars of that bicycle with Paul Newman in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" to the romantic sounds of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head?" There was no other real choice for Best Original Song that year. Period. B.J. Thomas nailed that song, and Paul Newman could have... well, never mind.
Watch Katharine and Paul ride that bicycle here.
"For All We Know" (1970) -- "Lovers and Other Strangers"
Music: Fred Karlin; Lyrics: Robb Royer and Jimmy Griffin
"'Lovers and Other Strangers' revolves around the wedding of Mike (Michael Brandon) and Susan (Bonnie Bedelia), intercutting their story with those of other couples among their families and friends." Richard and Karen Carpenter (The Carpenters) recorded the song "For All We Know" which was played during the wedding scene. We're betting the farm that song has been played at countless weddings over the years as brides and grooms slow-danced to their first song to this romantic tune. "Love, look at the two of us..." Soooooo romantic!
Watch and listen to The Carpenters sing "For All We Know" here.
"The Morning After" (1972) -- "The Poseidon Adventure"
Music and lyrics: Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn
After watching "The Poseidon Adventure," I decided I would never go on a cruise. I don't like it when a huge cruise ship turns upside down in the ocean. It makes me nervous. The movie had me biting my nails, a habit that I've never been able to break. But, for some reason, "The Morning After," Maureen McGovern's rendition, was the perfect song to get us to "that place that's safe and warm." Let's not go off on what can happen to cruise ships in this day and age. What could possibly go wrong?
Listen to Maureen McGovern sing "The Morning After" here.
"The Way We Were" (1973) -- "The Way We Were"
Music: Marvin Hamlisch; Lyrics: Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman
I saw this film in 1973, and, truth be known, what I remember most about it is Robert Redford. What a looker he turned out to be! I know there was a plot, but I just kept staring at that face. The second thing I remember most about this movie is Barbra Streisand's rendition of 'The Way We Were,' "which at the time of the film's release, was a commercial success and her first No. 1 single in the United States." That song was only meant for Ms. Streisand. Could anyone have sung it better? Not on your life.
Listen to Barbra sing "The Way We Were" here.
"You Light Up My Life" (1977) -- "You Light Up My Life
Music and lyrics: Joseph Brooks
Although "originally recorded by Kasey Cisyk for the soundtrack to the film of the same name," 'You Light Up My Life,' was subsequently recorded by Debbie Boone. It stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for ten consecutive weeks and became "the most successful single in the 1970s in the United States." How many times have a lot of us done this: "So many nights I sit by my window; Waiting for someone to sing me his song; So many dreams I kept deep inside me; Alone in the dark but now you've come along... You light up my life..." Yep, winner!
Debbie Boone takes your breath away singing "You Light Up My Life" here.
"Up Where We Belong" (1982) -- "An Officer and a Gentleman"
Music: Jack Nitzsche and Buffy Sainte-Marie; Lyrics: Will Jennings
Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes -- sometimes two people are just meant to sing a duet. Their version of the theme song for "An Officer and a Gentleman" made a significant difference in the ending of this film. "Richard Gere balked at shooting the ending of the film, in which Zack arrives at Paula's factory wearing his naval dress whites and carries her off the factory floor; he thought that wouldn't work because it was too sentimental. Director Taylor Hackford agreed with Gere until, during a rehearsal, the extras playing the workers began to cheer and cry. When Gere saw the scene later, with the music added ("Up Where We Belong"), he said it gave him chills. Gere is now convinced Hackford made the right decision." So are we!
Joe and Jennifer sing "Up Where We Belong" here.
"Flashdance... What a Feeling" (1983) -- "Flashdance"
Music: Giorgio Moroder; Lyrics: Keith Forsey and Irene Cara
Can anyone really listen to this song without wanting to join a flash mob and begin spontaneously dancing? The movie should have propelled the lead actors, Jennifer Beals and Michael Nouri up into the A-List actor category, but, somehow, the leading-man/leading-woman superstardom was not to be. The song, however, did bring Irene Cara her only No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and, of course, took home top honors at the Academy Awards that year. Great choice!
Listen to Irene Cara sing "Flashdance...What a Feeling" here.
"(I've Had) The Time of My Life" (1987) -- "Dirty Dancing"
Music: Franke Previte, John DeNicola and Donald Markowit; Lyrics: Franke Previte
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers eat your hearts out. Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey took dancing to a whole new level in this ageless drama "that documents a teenage girl's coming of age through a relationship with a dance instructor whom she encounters during the family's summer vacation." Truth be known, Astaire and Rogers could have most likely pulled off a mean dance version to this song, but no one will ever forget the dynamic chemistry that existed between Swayze and Grey when they engaged in those "dirty" dancing gyrations. Mercy!
Enjoy Patrick and Jennifer all over again dancing to "The Time of My Life" here.
"Beauty and the Beast" (1991) -- "Beauty and the Beast"
Music: Alan Menken; Lyrics: Howard Ashman
Here we go with a little Original Song trivia: "Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's song "Beauty and the Beast" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, while Menken's score won the award for Best Original Score. Two other Menken and Ashman songs from the film, "Belle" and "Be Our Guest", were also nominated for Best Original Song." We're thinking that the Academy made the right choice going with the title song for this animated musical fantasy. "It was performed in the movie by Angela Lansbury and sung over the movie's closing credits by Céline Dion and Peabo Bryson." Hello!
Listen to Celine and Peabo sing "Beauty and the Beast" here.
"Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (1994) -- "The Lion King"
Music: Elton John; Lyrics: Tim Rice
Lyricist Tim Rice was invited to write the songs for this Walt Disney feature animation 'The Lion King,' "and accepted on the condition of finding a composing partner... the producers accepted Rice's suggestion of Elton John. John expressed an interest of writing 'ultra-pop songs that kids would like; then adults can go and see those movies and get just as much pleasure out of them.'" John and Rice wrote five original songs for this film. "Circle of Life", and "Hakuna Matata" were also nominated from this movie, but "Can You Feel the Love Tonight", which featured John's performance over the end credits, took home the gold statue. We do feel the love here. Good choice, Academy!
Elton John sings "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" here.
"My Heart Will Go On" (1997) -- "Titanic"
Music: James Horner; Lyrics: Will Jennings