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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Song "The Time of My Life" by Frank Previte - Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

When the movie's music producer Jimmy Ienner was deciding in 1986 which new songs would be sung in the movie's final scene, he asked for proposals from singer-songwriter Franke Previte. Five years earlier, Previte had been the lead singer in a band called The Knockouts, for which Ienner had been the producer.

The following video shows The Knockouts playing their top song "Sweetheart" in 1981.

The song's lyrics, written by Previte, are lousy poetry, but they do create a mental image of a dramatic scene.
I know, Baby, it's hard to be strong.
Just take the good with the bad,
And don't think you're alone.

'Cause I know all your sad goodbyes,
'Cause I've been there before
To help you dry your eyes.

Who loves you from the start?
Who treats you like a star?

Oh, sweetheart,
Who loves you baby?
Who loves you wrong or right?

'Cause you're the spark in my life,
Yeah, day and night
The following video shows The Knockouts being interviewed by Dick Clark in 1982:


Such lyrics that Previte wrote were good enough for Ienner, who evidently was satisfied with the catchy phrase "I've Had the Time of My Life:" Here are the latter song's lyrics:
Now I've had the time of my life.
No, I never felt like this before.
Yes, I swear it's the truth,
And I owe it all to you.

I've been waiting for so long.
Now I've finally found
Someone to stand by me.

We saw the writing on the wall
As we felt this magical fantasy.
Now with passion in our eyes
There's no way
We could disguise it secretly.

So we take each other's hand
'Cause we seem to understand
The urgency.

Just remember:
You're the one thing
I can't get enough of

So I'll tell you something:
This could be love because
I've had the time of my life.

With my body and soul
I want you more
Than you'll ever know.
So we'll just let it go.

Don't be afraid to lose control.
Yes, I know what's on your mind
When you say:
"Stay with me tonight."

I've searched through every open door
Till I found the truth,
And I owe it all to you
Now I've had the time of my life.
Again, the poetry is lousy, but it does express the feelings that Baby was experiencing during that dance.

Only the last stanza, in my opinion, expresses Johnny's feelings. Johnny was the character who seemed to be "searching through every door" and who "found the truth, and I owe it all to you".


Also receiving credit for writing the song were John DeNicola and Donald Markowitz. Previte has described their contributions to the song in an interview published on the website American Songwriter.
He [Ienner] gave me a short description of the movie and said ‘the good news is you can write the song. The bad news is it’s gotta be seven minutes long!’ So I’m thinking “MacArthur Park” and songs like that.

My songwriting partner John DeNicola and I were writing and making demos, trying to get a record deal. .... I called John and I told him that I had an offer from Jimmy Ienner to write a song for this movie. I said ‘Let’s start the song in half-time, with the chorus up front and then double-time the verses.’ The first thing I thought of was Donna Summer’s “Last Dance.”

Don Markowitz was a friend of John’s. He had an eight-track recorder at his house and John only had four[-track]. So John went to Don’s and then changes were made to the music. Don said ‘how about this change, or this bass line and then you can go to this chord?’ So they formulated the music and then sent me the track. From that, I made further edits and we sent it to Jimmy, who said ‘I like it. Make it a song!’

The song "Time of My Life" was delivered after the movie's final scene already had been rehearsed to a different song. Previte told American Songwriter:
When I [Previte] met Patrick [Swayze] at the Oscars [in 1988], he told me:

"You have no idea what this song did for this movie. We filmed the movie out of sequence so the last scene was the first one filmed. We listened to 149 songs and hated them. We rehearsed every day to a Lionel Richie track. Good song but it wasn’t our song. We all felt the ending wasn’t happening and the movie was going to bomb."

"Then your cassette with you and Rachele Cappelli singing 'Time of My Life' came in. We filmed to that, and at the end of the day we all looked at each other and said "Wow, what just happened? This ending is awesome! Let’s go make this movie!"

It changed everything for them for the better. The camaraderie that wasn’t there was now there.  

In the following video, Previte tells how he wrote the song (beginning at 1:30).

The website Song Facts includes a superb webpage about the song Time of My Life. You should read that webpage. I will highlight only the following passage, which specifies Ienner's key requirements:
This song had to fit some specific criteria for the movie: it had to start slow, finish fast, and have a mambo beat. ... The scene was seven minutes long. They needed the song to be just as long. So we started the track with the chorus up front in half time to create a slow mood before the downbeat of the verse.

The Dirty Dancing producers offered Previte $1,000 for the rights of each of the two songs -- "Hungry Eyes" and "Time of My Life", but he insisted on $3,500 for each of the songs plus retention of the copyrights. Because he did retain the songs' copyrights, Previte in the year 2000 still was earning at least $250,000 a year just from the song "Time of My Life".
Previte estimates that he gets quarterly checks of $10,000 to $30,000 for radio airplay, additional quarterly checks of $50,000 to $100,000 from the hit stage adaptation, and annual checks of $100,000-$125,000 when the song is used in commercials.
I suppose that DeNicola and Markowitz were paid fully out of the $3,500 initial payment.


The song was sung as a male-female duet by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. The Song Facts website includes an informative interview of Medley. The Leonard Cohen Forum website includes an informative interview of Warnes.

The book Risky Business: Rock in Film, which I discussed in my earlier article Business Decisions About the Movie's Music, tells how Ienner convinced Medley and Warnes to sing the song for the movie.
Ienner wanted the title tune to have a period feel and was set on getting Sixties soul singer Bill Medley to sing it. The former Righteous Brother was reluctant., as his duet with Gladys Knight, "Loving on Borrowed Time", for the soundtrack of [Sylvester] Stallone's Cobra had flopped.

I thought a Stallone movie couldn't miss," he [Medley] said. "With a hit movie, the title song has a real good shot to make it. When the movie flopped, that took the heart out of me. I wasn't that eager to do another soundtrack song, especially for a small movie with an unknown cast. Odds were against this movie becoming a hit."

Ienner offered to move the record session from New York to Los Angeles so that Medley could be close to his pregnant wife, and Medley reconsidered.

Jennifer Warnes, selected as his partner, was already known for her successful "Right Time of the Night". She had achieved status in the business, with three more theme songs to her credit: "It Goes like It Goes" from [the movie] Norma Rae (1979), "One More Hour", from Ragtime (1981) and a #1 hit in 1982 with Joe Crocker, "Up Where We Belong" from An Officer and a Gentleman. All three songs received Academy Award nominations for Best Song from a Motion Picture. "It Goes Like This" and "Up Where We Belong" both won.

Ienner thought the singer's blend of earthy and pristine approximated the images of the young lovers. ...
The following video shows Medley and Warnes performing the song live soon after the movie was released.


I like these amateur performances.

A trio called Acoustic River, comprising Carmen Porcar, Gustavo Sosa and Toni Gilaber.

Glendale High School

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