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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “When You Wish Upon a Star”

Yeah, you had to know this one was coming. Get over it.
If you’re looking for real substance you’ll want to visit my article about Jiminy Cricket and Cliff Edwards, the man who provided his voice. There isn’t much I could offer here that would rival that. So what you’ll get this time around is a series of cover versions – – some lovely and unique…others just unique.

“When You Wish Upon a Star” is not just a great and famous Oscar-winning song. It also became the de-facto theme song for what is now perhaps the biggest entertainment company in the entire world. Just pop in any Disney movie you have at home and you’ll notice the song’s melody incorporated into the pre-title sequence.

The song was immediately appealing in its animated form and it didn’t take long for a variety of artists to start recording their own takes on the material. Glenn Miller and his orchestra gave it a nice little jazzy lope later that same year with this version released on RCA’s Bluebird label and it paid off with a number one hit for them.

At the same time, Decca released a recording by Guy Lombardo and Horace Heidt put it on vinyl as well. All were big band ballad arrangements that couples could have a relatively tame slow dance to.
In 1947 the studio made use of its biggest hit song in a charming Daisy Duck cartoon in which Donald is the recipient of a nasty blow to the noggin that leaves him thinking he’s a great singing sensation. Apparently believing this about himself is enough to make it true. The fact that the big gag near the end of the cartoon short is entirely predictable doesn’t make it any less funny to me.

This 1960 version by Dion and the Belmonts hit the Top40 for a couple of weeks in May of that year. This recording is credited by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys with inspiring his own hit song “Surfer Girl,” and you can definitely hear the same rhythm in the opening lines of the two songs.

Fifteen years later, Gene Simmons of the notorious rock ‘n’ roll band KISS included a rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star” as the final song on his first solo album. The production is pretty much a straight copy of the original. If there was any tongue in cheek intended, Simmons wasn’t letting on. He expressed genuine affection for the song in interviews, saying he loved it even before he could speak English. His rendition kind of impresses me as hard rock’s version of Sid Vicious singing “My Way.” The vocals are pretty awful, so unless you’re a Simmons fan you’ll probably want to listen just once out of curiosity’s sake.

This next one I actually remember seeing on television myself when it was first aired. Star Wars was the big thing for my friends and I at the time, so when we found out characters from the movie were going to appear on The Muppet Show we made extra sure to be camped out in front of the boob tube to see what they would bring us. I remember being a little disappointed that Han Solo and Princess Leia and Ben Kenobi didn’t show up. But, as was often the case, the Muppets had their own ideas about how they would handle things.

I’m not sure my nine-year-old self could fully appreciate the ludicrous brilliance on display. I probably took Star Wars too seriously at the time to think this was funny.

Six years later, one of my Dad’s favorite musical pairings of Linda Ronstadt and legendary bandleader Nelson Riddle released their third and final collaboration. Their version of “When You Wish Upon a Star” led the album as its opening track and first single, hitting #32 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart.

Jiminy always was a ladies’ man.

I’m going to spare you the 1995 version by Alvin & the Chipmunks.

In 2004, that AFI list that put “Over the Rainbow” at number one included “When You Wish Upon a Star” at number seven.

Having cribbed lines from the song for one of his first hits, Brian Wilson thought it might be appropriate to offer his own recording of it now that he’s old and washed up.

That’s a bunch of covers of one song, right? Well there’s a lot more where that came from. Hopefully at least one was moving or made you laugh. That’s the official end of my 15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs series for this year’s coverage. I could have covered all 82 winners to this point, but that would have meant starting back in early December of last year, and frankly I don’t have it together enough for that kind of foresight or commitment.

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Posted on February 25, 2017, in Awards, Movies, Music, Nostalgia, Oscars and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I think it’s a very magical song, makes me want to go out and win something (preferably a Super Bowl). Well, that’s what songs are supposed to do, conjure up images and enliven the spirit.

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  2. Great series, worthy of going back for plenty of re-readings. BTW Brian Wilson will never be washed up, even if the vocal cord ain’t what they used to be. Musical genius.

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    • I agree that the guy is an absolute legend. That line was just a little ribbing because the song had been an influence on one of his very first hits and then he covered it much later in his career. No disrespect was intended..

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  3. And here is Michael Jackson’s version:

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  4. Sorry, this is the right one:

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