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Category Archives: Music

Spring Break at Walt Disney World Travel Day! – Daffy Does Disney


I just spent an excellent 6-day spring break trip at Walt Disney World and now I start the process of sharing what I did with you readers here at LeBlog! Today’s initial video for this trip focuses mostly on the journey getting there, but watch anyway, because there are a couple of surprises along the way!

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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.
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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Over the Rainbow”


Here we have it. Probably the most famous and loved Oscar-winning song of all time! But don’t just trust me, consider the honors “Over the Rainbow” has racked up over and above its Oscar win. In 2004 the American Film Institute proclaimed the song to be the number one greatest to come from any movie as a part of its “100 Years…100 Songs” promotion. Three years prior to that, a poll of professionals by the Recording Industry Association of America placed “Over the Rainbow” in the number one spot on their list of the “Songs of the Century.” The song has been honored on a stamp by the United States Post Office and has been the recipient of a wide range of cover versions. It’s kind of an undeniable pillar in the history of American pop culture.
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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Mona Lisa”


Sometimes one great song is the lone claim to fame for an otherwise forgotten movie, and we can only hope that the Academy will successfully identify these diamonds of musical inspiration which are hidden in arguably unlikely places. Of course public attention to a song can often do the job for them. This was certainly part of the case in 1950 when Nat “King” Cole’s recording of the Ray Evans/Jay Livingston tune “Mona Lisa” topped the charts throughout the month of August despite getting little to no promotional boost from the movie it appeared in. Captain Carey U.S.A. was an inconsequential film based on a written serial about an American played by Alan Ladd who returns to Italy to help bring a traitor to justice. It wasn’t one of the top ten box office hits of the year and “Mona Lisa” appears to have been the only awards attention it received. Classics such as All About Eve, Born Yesterday, Sunset Boulevard, Walt Disney’s Cinderella, The Third Man, and Father of the Bride dominated both the box office and the Oscars that year (the eventual divorce in tastes between the movie-going public and the Academy is a subject for another day perhaps). Either way, we can thank Captain Carey U.S.A. for getting this great song to the Oscars stage.
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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Call Me Irresponsible”


Yeah, I know, you thought this was primarily a Frank Sinatra tune. Well that certainly is the most famous recording of “Call Me Irresponsible,” because face it, if you had your choice as a record company would you want to be selling a recording of Jackie Gleason singing drunk or something by Frank? Even if he was in a mild slump at the time. As it turns out, the song was actually only a charting hit for a singer named Jack Jones who most of us probably know best for singing the theme to the Love Boat television show (damn, I’ve got that stuck in my head now).
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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Zip-a-Dee Doo-Dah”


They run the risk of wearing out their welcome with that reprise don’t they? To my ears the Walt Disney Choir drops in about one chorus too late. Ah well, no matter. This is the sort of ear worm that can survive some mild over-reach.

Let’s address the seventy-year-old elephant in the room, shall we? Song of the South is a pretty complicated chapter in the history of the Disney company that has gone through an ebb and flow in critical and public estimation. Walt himself knew that he was treading on tricky ground with any film that was even adjacent to discussing race relations. He hired a Jewish “lefty” writer to try to balance out the tone and characterizations in the film. He hired the only African-American actress to ever win an Oscar. He hired a legendary cinematographer. He consulted with the marketing team of another racially sensitive film. He organized a meeting with the President of the NAACP for script revisions.

So what happened?
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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “The Way We Were”


When you’re a music fan who was born in 1970 it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the period of time between the social unrest of the late sixties and the cynicism and despair which were expressed by punk was mostly made up of soft rock platitudes. Obviously that wasn’t completely true…but some people didn’t go out of their ways to disabuse us of the notion. The fact that I was a small child at the time definitely limited my access to any of the edgier popular culture that was out there. Not that these romanticized expressions of love, sadness, and nostalgia I’m talking about were all bad. They clearly weren’t. People like Barbra Streisand and Marvin Hamlisch don’t have to be your favorites. Believe me, I get it. But if you dismiss them and their ilk out of hand you might be in danger of favoring style over substance rather completely.
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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Take My Breath Away”


Today’s example of a great Oscar-winning song comes from the era when cross-promotional use of songs from popular artists was perhaps at its peak in the movie/music business. Just take a look at the nominees and winners of the Oscar for Best Original Song starting in 1977 and stretching until the Disney renaissance took hold in 1989. What you’ve got here are songs meant to market the movie and at the same time maybe piggy back on a successful film for added exposure. Sure, this still happens every now and then (last year’s Bond song seems to fit this description), but the sheer dependability of top chart success for so many of the songs throughout my childhood and into my first year of college points to shifts in how the songs have been voted on.

Just about as successful as any song to ever win the award was the recording of the Giorgio Moroder tune “Take My Breath Away” by pop band Berlin for the Tom Cruise blockbuster Top Gun.
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Best Original Song Nominees (89th Academy Awards)


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Does anything about that top image look slightly off to you? If so, it’s probably because there are only four films nominated in the Best Original Song category instead of five. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t five nominated songs. It’s just that one of these movies has two. No points for guessing which one.

This is actually not that uncommon. In fact, the Best Original Song category has a history of wonky nomination counts for a variety of reasons. Back in 2013 one of the songs had its nomination revoked. Prior to that, a series of rules changes designed to reduce any perception of the category being “filled out” with unworthy nominees sometimes resulted in fields of three or four. A nomination process that required voters to rate each song, with only those rated higher than a set target gaining a place on the Oscars stage produced a situation in 2011 in which only two songs were nominated (prompting one high-profile singer to accuse the Academy of being “mean”). Over the first eleven years of the category’s existence voters were permitted to nominated as many songs as they liked…and boy did they like! Throughout the early forties no less than nine songs were nominated every single year, topping off at a whopping FOURTEEN in 1945. Obviously that was an out of control situation. People love being honored and they certainly love seeing their projects get free promotion. With no television show to keep on time, why not pile up as many nominations as possible if you can?

For a good long time after that, the Academy put a cap of five nominations on the category and as far as I can tell that was working pretty well. There were a few times when there were a small number of songs which the Academy considered to be qualified, and they would automatically reduce the number of nominated songs to three. This happened in 1988 when Carl Simon’s song from Working Girl took home the gold over Phil Collins’ retro bit of fluff from his otherwise unknown starring vehicle Buster. Considering the well-publicized demographics of the Academy it’s a little hard to swallow when they proclaim that only two or three songs deserve nominations. I’m going to stop short of criticizing them for nominating more than one song from a single movie, though. I personally think it’s pretty great if a particular musical is really that good that they can shower it with praise. Disney’s Beauty & the Beast really is that good, and a lot of people felt the same way about The Lion King. Besides, if they were limited to one song per film, my favorite movie song of the year probably wouldn’t have been nominated this time around.
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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Secret Love”


Gee whiz that’s a great melody. And I guess it should be since it was kind of lifted from a piano sonata by Schubert. There are other versions I like better, but we’ll get to at least one of those below. Yes, Doris Day is undeniably square by today’s standards, but she also had one of the clearest, cleanest singing voices you’ll ever hear in the style. That probably contributed to her squeaky clean image which fell out of fashion in the late 1960s. The reputation is not entirely undeserved, as the tone of her films failed to change with the times and she refused the role of Mrs Robinson in The Graduate, saying in her memoirs that she had done so on moral grounds. People began calling Day “the world’s oldest virgin” and her once boffo film career cooled relatively quickly. It has been generally forgotten what a big star she actually was.
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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Chim Chim Cher-ee”


I’m realizing as I go along that I have personal attachments to some of these songs that go back to childhood. That’s the case again this time around, with “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from Mary Poppins. Back in elementary school our music teacher chose me to sing this as a solo as a part of a school-wide variety show that included performances by each of the grade levels. For my school that meant everyone from kindergarten to seventh grade. As a fourth grader I wasn’t yet eligible for a lead in the yearly musical, but this solo gig as a singing chimney sweep meant that I was in line for that sort of thing in a couple of years. It was also the first time I remember getting positive reactions from the kids around me related to my performing aspirations. Boys who I knew mostly as grubby playground antagonists suddenly seemed to be recognizing that I had value. It was weird. Unfortunately because this performance happened back in the olden days of the Carter administration all photographic records of the event have been lost in the sands of time. I know we’re all really sad about that.
The rest of this article will actually be about the song itself. I promise.
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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “White Christmas”


“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!” – Irving Berlin

Well, at least that’s one story about what he told his secretary after dreaming up “White Christmas” during a late night session. Two different hotels have staked a claim to being the location where he penned what has since become the top selling single recording of all time. One is the La Quinta Hotel in La Quinta, California which is a standard retreat for Hollywood types while the other is pretty far from there at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, Arizona. Another story has Berlin humming the melody to Fred Astaire and director Mark Sandwich on the set of Top Hat back in 1935. What is relatively uncontested is that Berlin wrote the song as a nostalgic take on a more traditional environment while languishing in the decidedly less holiday-centric American southwest.
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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe”


Uh yeah! Ya think?! There’s quite a lot to like here, even if your Dad wasn’t a steam engine enthusiast who introduced you to the song when you were a kid. Judy Garland shows off her natural charisma and uniquely mid-century American singing voice in a sequence which takes its time in building from easy going to full steam ahead in an obvious nod to the gradual acceleration of the sort of train she’s singing about taking a trip on. The filmmakers even play into this, going from static and slow shots with mostly stock-still supporting characters to shots which open up the world around Garland and allow her cohorts to get in on the act. Even if you’re the type who considers the whole thing a little cheesy for your taste it’s a pretty accomplished use of the variety of skills on display.
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