NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
From ‘The Continental’ to ‘Shallow,’ Academy Award-winning songs that have defined 85 years of movies
By STORM GIFFORD
FEB 08, 2020
While the films may fade into oblivion, the melodic harmonies and timeless lyrics continue to entrance fans generation after generation.
For 85 years, the Best Original Song has been an Oscars staple. The first winner at 1934?s 7th Academy Awards was “The Continental” from “The Gay Divorcee,” which bested “Carioca” and “Love in Bloom.”
The following year also featured three contenders, with “Lullaby of Broadway” taking home the Oscar. In 1936, the number of contenders doubled to six; and two years later, the nominees ballooned to 10. Three 1938 selections remain culturally relevant today: Irving Berlin’s “Now It Can Be Told,” “Jeepers Creepers” and that year’s winner “Thanks for the Memory.”
Disney established itself early on in the category with the classic “When You Wish Upon a Star” from 1940?s “Pinocchio,” and seven years later with “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” of “Song of the South.” Other noteworthy studio songs to be nominated in that era included “Baby Mine” from “Dumbo,” “Bambi” entry “Love Is a Song” and “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” from “Cinderella.”
Winners from the 1950s featured a slew of wistful ditties from “Secret Love” to “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing” to “Que Sera, Sera.”
The victors of the next decade ranged from the cheerful — “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and “Talk to the Animals” — to the reflective “Days of Wine and Roses” and “The Windmills of Your Mind.” The 1969 champ, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” produced by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, was the first Best Original Song to top the Billboard Hot 100.
Champs of the 1970s offered a little bit of everything: the breezy, country-infused softness of “I’m Easy” from “Nashville;” the funky, synth-keyboard riffs from “Theme from Shaft” and disco in “Last Dance” from the musical “Thank God It’s Friday.”
The theme song from 1991’s “Beauty and the Beast,” the first animated Best Picture contender, took home the Oscar for Best Original Song.
The theme song from 1991’s “Beauty and the Beast,” the first animated Best Picture contender, took home the Oscar for Best Original Song. (AP)
The category also has experienced controversy. Forty years ago, Oscar fans lambasted voters for favoring the forgettable Norma Rae tune “It Goes Like It Goes” over “Rainbow Connection” from “The Muppet Movie.” Also that year, outrage erupted when the title song from the Bette Midler film “The Rose” was ruled ineligible despite winning the Golden Globe only 10 weeks earlier.
For the 1980s, there was a seismic shift in pop songs dominating the Best Original Category, with no fewer than eight winners topping the Billboard Hot 100 that decade.
In an incredible quirk that has never been repeated, all five 1984 nominees — “Against All Odds,” “Ghostbusters,” “Footloose,” “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” and eventual winner “I Just Called to Say I Love You” all topped the pop chart.
But 1989?s crop, including champ “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid,” failed to produce a single contender to chart in the top 40.
In the 1990s, it was Disney’s time to dominate, snagging an astounding six Oscars in the category, including the theme song from “Beauty and the Beast,” “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin” and “Colors of the Wind” from “Pocahontas.”
Alan Menken was a three-time winner that decade, as was lyricist Tim Rice.
By the 2000s, the category was in a state of flux. Bob Dylan claimed his first Oscar for the “Wonder Boys” song “Things Have Changed,” but two international selections that decade claimed the prize: “Al otro lado del rio” from “The Motorcycle Diaries” and 2008?s “Jai Ho” from Best Picture winner “Slumdog Millionaire.”
The category hit a low point in 2011 when just two nominees vied for the prize. “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” beat “Real in Rio” from “Rio.”
Also, after decades of futility, two songs from the James Bond series snagged Oscar gold. While the likes of “Live and Let Die,” “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “For Your Eyes Only” failed to wow Academy Award voters, Adele’s haunting “Skyfall” and Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall” from “Spectre” finally broke through.
And while Lady Gaga didn’t win a Best Actress Oscar for her “A Star Is Born” performance last year, she did take home gold for co-writing the powerful duet “Shallow.”
Cynthia Erivo is in a similar position to Lady Gaga on Sunday. Not only is she nominated for Best Actress for “Harriet,” she’s also up for the song “Stand Up” from “Harriet.”