Many great Oscar moments of the past are musical, like Celine Dion singing “My Heart Will Go On,” or Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper singing “Shallow.” But back in the day, artists weren’t always allowed to perform their songs on the Oscar telecast. In fact, nominee Kenny Loggins remembers sitting in the audience at the 1985 Oscars, watching Debbie Allen sing his nominated hit.
The 1985 Oscars marked the first time all five nominees for Best Original Song were also #1 pop hits: Kenny’s “Footloose,” Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds,” Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters,” Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” and Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.”
But as Kenny tells ABC Audio, “In those days, they would rather have some movie semi-luminary perform your song and not have the artist. It was surprising to me, with…so many artists [that] were the performers of those songs that were sitting in the audience, I thought, ‘Why didn’t they have us get up there and sing…?'”
Instead, Kenny, Stevie and Phil had to sit there while others sang — or butchered — their songs. Ray Parker Jr. did sing “Ghostbusters,” but bizarrely, Dom DeLuise was part of the performance. Only Deniece Williams got to do a straight performance.
While things have improved since then, we’re unlikely to see another year in which every Oscar-nominated song is also a huge pop hit. That trend pretty much peaked in the ’80s, as Kenny notes.
“To have pop music or rock and roll directly connected to the project was a new idea,” says Kenny. “A song like ‘Footloose’ is literally written for the movie…the movies I worked on, songs…are integral parts of those films. You can’t hear that song without seeing that film in your head.”
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