Last month I completed the series I began back in January that examined and remarked on The American Film Institute and its recent proclivity to create lists. Specifically, the Top 10 variety in film. Unquestionably, the film organization’s prime purpose was to get people talking about film. Since I’ve been on a music bent this month, I decided to look back on AFI’s Top 100 Songs in American cinema. Broadcast as part of their 100 Years series, the AFI released this on June 2004 in a CBS TV special hosted by John Travolta (and where exactly was Olivia Newton John again?).
Still, the song catalog did comprise another Top 10, of sorts. Perhaps, I’m going through a bit of withdrawal for not having to assemble and reflect upon another set of AFI movie selections. But this did incorporate a pair of arts I spend a lot of time with, film and song. So I thought to close out November with one more motivated response that compared their (AFI) picks with a moviegoer (me). One definitely not part of their ‘experts’ or opinions that put these together.
I’m fully aware that readers’ mileage may vary (indeed, we know they will) when it comes to these selections. Fair enough. Either way, it’s going to be challenging as picking one above the other always is in such endeavors. You’re invited to add your own and/or disagree all you want in the comments or your blog site (all I ask is that you leave a link so we, the readers, can peruse). Shall we move on?
|1||Over the Rainbow
PERFORMER Judy Garland
MUSIC/LYRICS Harold Arlen/E. Y. Harburg
|WIZARD OF OZ, THE||1939|
|2||As Time Goes By
PERFORMER Dooley Wilson
MUSIC/LYRICS Herman Hupfeld
|3||Singin’ in the Rain
PERFORMER Gene Kelly
MUSIC/LYRICS Nacio Herb Brown/Arthur Freed
|SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN||1952|
PERFORMER Audrey Hepburn
MUSIC/LYRICS Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer
|BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S||1961|
PERFORMER Bing Crosby
MUSIC/LYRICS Irving Berlin
PERFORMERS Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel
MUSIC/LYRICS Paul Simon
|7||When You Wish Upon A Star
PERFORMER Cliff Edwards
MUSIC/LYRICS Leigh Harline/Ned Washington
|8||Way We Were, The
PERFORMER Barbra Streisand
MUSIC/LYRICS Marvin Hamlisch/Alan and Marilyn Bergman
|THE WAY WE WERE||1973|
PERFORMER The Bee Gees
MUSIC/LYRICS Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb
|SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER||1977|
|10||Sound of Music, The
PERFORMER Julie Andrews
MUSIC/LYRICS Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II
|SOUND OF MUSIC, THE||1965|
1) Over the Rainbow, The Wizard of Oz [AFI #1] – it’s not much of a start when I completely agree with AFI’s #1 pick, but there it is. Victor Fleming’s (with various inputs from George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy, Norman Taurog, and King Vidor) grand musical fantasy brings it with this song. Judy Garland’s rendition of the ballad continues to stand the test of time, at least with this viewer (flying monkeys be damned).
2) As Time Goes By, Casablanca [AFI #2] – okay, I’m at it again. But my all-time favorite film, by Michael Curtiz, has to make it on to my movie/song list with Dooley Wilson’s heartfelt working of the 1931 Broadway stage number. How could it not? Like the one above, it’s a number that has endured enough to be used by the studio (Warner Bros.) as a fanfare since 1998. I’d say that certainly qualifies its high-ranking alone.
3) A Hard Day’s Night, A Hard Day’s Night – how can any self-respecting Beatles fan (I proudly raise my hand) not have this listed somewhere here? Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, with arrangement by the legendary producer George Martin, this song (and its introduction in Richard Lester’s film) influenced an entire generation. Want to know where the music video was really invented? Look no further than this film’s pop anthem.
4) Moon River, Breakfast at Tiffany’s [AFI #4] – okay, I promise this will be the last time on my list where I’ll agree with an AFI selection. But, damn it’s a good one. Even though my girl Audrey Hepburn wasn’t exactly an accomplished singer, she did it justice. Certainly enough that it received an Academy Award for Best Original Song in the Blake Edwards’ film. It remains one touching number.
5) When She Loved Me, Toy Story 2 – I admit I mist right up whenever I watch this sequence in John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, and Lee Unkrich’s sequel. Written by Randy Newman and sung by Sarah McLachlan, it’s a heartbreaking scene crystallized by this ballad. Nominated for Best Song in 2000, it inanely lost out to another Disney animated film, Tarzan (by Phil Collins for “You’ll Be in My Heart“). Idiots.
6) Canzonetta Sull’aria, The Shawshank Redemption – written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and sung by Edith Mathis and Gundula Janowitz from the 1968 Berlin Opera recording. Just go here to see why this one registers with me.
7) Stormy Weather, Stormy Weather [AFI #30] – there’s a reason Lena Horne’s signature song is her signature song. You only have to watch her perform it in Andrew Stone’s 1943 film to realize why. No other cover for this Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler song compares, IMO.
8) Goldfinger, Goldfinger [AFI #53] – music/lyrics by John Barry, Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley. Admittedly, I picked another Shirley Bassey Bond song barely ahead of this in a James Bond post earlier this year. Still, there’s no way I cannot include this song. The one, like the Guy Hamilton film, that set the mark others are compared to for the entire OO7 movie series.
9) Superfly, Superfly – written and sung by Curtis Mayfield, this may be surprising to many of you, but hear me out. Yes, AFI did honor ‘Shaft’ by Isaac Hayes at #38 (and none for this). Yet, I think this one stood out more in this Gordon Parks, Jr. Blaxploitation gem that came a year later. The song, like the soundtrack, was one of the most influential for the 70s decade.
10) On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever), On a Clear You Can See Forever – music/lyrics by Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner. While Barbara Streisand has four songs in AFI’s 100 list (‘The Way We Were’, ‘People’, ‘Evergreen’, and ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’), it is this one, from Vincent Minnelli’s film, that still gets the hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end.
Note: the primary reason I could come up a list with only three the AFI picked was that I selected those tunes I could easily watch on film or just listen to individually in equal measure. There’s nothing at all wrong with ‘Singing in the Rain’, ‘White Christmas’, ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’, ‘The Way We Were’. I just have mine higher for that proviso. ‘Mrs. Robinson’ would be in my #11 slot, in fact. But I’d definitely have ‘Staying Alive’ much lower down. Hell, I’m the only one in my household who adores ‘The Sound of Music’. So there. 😉