span.fullpost {display:inline;}

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Song "The Time of My Life" by Franke Previte - Part 1

If you have seen Dirty Dancing several times, you probably have lost the feeling of surprise you felt when you watched the "Time of My Life" scene the first time. Then you did not know how the dance would go. You did not know that Baby and Johnny would do the lift move. You never had heard the song "Time of My Life".

That initial surprise has been smothered forever, because now you have watched the scene many times. You still feel the delight, but not the surprise.


As Baby would continued to live for many more years and decades, she would experience many more important events in her life. She would attend Holyoke College and profoundly study the economics of underdeveloped countries. As a Peace Corps volunteer she would spend two or three years in an actual underdeveloped country and deepen her understanding of such economics.

Baby would fall in love with a man who shared her intellectual interests and social passions. She would marry such a man, establish a household. She would give birth and raise children.

She would continue to study the economics of underdeveloped country. She would collect research information and write a dissertation on her subject. She would earn a doctorate and become a university professor of economics. As she taught and as she collaborated with her fellow professors, she would develop intellectually.

She will deal with the personal problems of her sister Lisa, of her aging and dying parents, of her husband's family, of her own adult children and of her grandchildren.

After years and decades, she always will remember her three-week romance with Johnny Castle, but she no longer will consider that brief, long-ago experience to be "the time of my life".


The movie Dirty Dancing includes some pre-1963 songs and some new songs that were created in 1986 for the 1987 movie. In general, the pre-1963 songs are heard in the movie's first half and the new songs are heard in the last half.

Because the movie is realistic and takes place in a real, historical time, a strong argument could have been made -- probably was made -- that all the movie's songs should have been songs that already existed and were well known in 1963.

At the beginning of the above video clip, Billy Kostecki puts a record of the song onto a record player, but there was no record of the song in 1963. The song did not exist until 1986, when the movie was filmed.

I offer three arguments for adding some new songs into the movie.

1. Economic Calculations: The movie's producers might spend less money and earn more money on the new songs. I am not knowledgeable enough to write much on that subject. See, however, my earlier article Business Decisions About the Movie's Music. See also the following articles by knowledgeable people.
* Using Music in Films: A Guide

* Music in Films: An Introduction to Budgeting

* Budgeting Considerations When Using Music in Films

* The Soundtrack Album, by Numbers

* Music, Money, Success and the Movies: Part One

* Music, Money, Success and the Movies: Part Two
2. Artistic Self-Expression: A major reason why screenwriters, composers, musicians, singers and producers make musicals is that they want to create new songs and introduce them into the culture. Dirty Dancing was not made merely to earn a lot of money from telling Eleanor Bergstein's personal story. To some extent, for at least some of the participants, the major motivation was to create some new popular songs -- not just replay golden oldies. Some people identify themselves primarily as song-creators, not as money-earners.

In the following two videos, musical-theater collaborators Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice explain their thinking about musical dramas. Webber and Rice began collaborating as teenagers; Webber composed the music and Rice wrote the lyrics. In the 1970s they began breathing new life into the musical as a genre that had declined in popularity during the 1960s.

For Webber and Rice, the stories in the musicals were platforms for creating and popularizing new songs. In the development of their first successful play, Jesus Christ Superstar, the main songs were created long before the story.

The first video above -- the documentary about Webber -- was filmed in 1986, the same year when Dirty Dancing was filmed. The Webber documentary describes the current state of the musical as a genre in 1986.

3. Dramatic Surprise: The movie Dirty Dancing develops as a dramatic crescendo that peaks at the lift in the final scene. One factor in the crescendo is the surprise caused by the new songs. The audiences who watched the movie for the first time were already familiar with the old songs in the movie's first half -- "Be My Baby", "Big Girls Don't Cry", "Do You Love Me", "Love Man", "Wipe-Out", etc.

The first new song to be heard is "Hungry Eyes", when Baby and Johnny still are practicing to perform at the Sheldrake Hotel. That song is followed by the old song, "Hey, Baby", when they are practicing outdoors. Then that song is followed by the instrumental music of the song "Time of My Life" -- at 1:50 in the following video

In August 1987 people in movie theaters watching the movie heard now this melody for the first time in their lives. The subtle instrumental melody at this moment foreshadowed the singing of the song in the movie's climax scene. The following video explains the literary device of foreshadowing:

That foreshadowing instrumental of a new melody is then followed by a series of six old songs -- "Some Kind of Wonderful", "These Arms of Mine", "Cry to Me", "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?", "Love is Strange" and "In the Still of the Night".

That series of old songs is followed by two new songs "She's Like the Wind" and "The Time of My Life". Now these songs are famous, but the audiences watching the movie in August 1987 were hearing these two songs now for the first time in their lives. The two songs' novelty strengthened the dramatic crescendo that the audiences felt as the story led to Johnny's triumphant lift of Baby -- the movie's climax.

You never again will feel that dramatic crescendo as thrillingly as you felt it when you watched the movie your first time -- especially if that was your first time hearing those two songs.

That original thrill is now just a nice but stale memory -- like the nice but stale memory of 72-year-old retired economics professor Frances Houseman-Levinson about her 1963 romance.

Continued in Part 2.

No comments:

Post a Comment