When was the last time you left a movie theater thinking about the songs you heard throughout out the film? For me, it’s been a long time.
Back in the day movie sound tracks were as exciting as the movies themselves. Movies like Shaft in the 70s, Purple Rain in the 80s and Boomerang in the 90s! Man! It didn’t get any better than that. Okay, I’ll throw in Pharrell’s Happy from Despicable Me 2 from 2013.
But lets face it, the hey day of movie soundtracks was in the 70s. Well, depending on who you ask and that’s how this blog was born.
We tried to compile a list of the best movie sound tracks and rank them in but to be honest, it was a task to big to take on. Each time we thought we were finished someone would throw out another movie! Then we had to distinguish the difference between a sound track of original songs for the movie (like in Super Fly) vs. a movie that uses popular already recorded songs (like in Cooley High). For this blog we’re sticking to songs recorded specifically for the movie.
And we still had problems. So here is the very unofficial list of the Best Sound Tracks Ever.
Theme from Shaft: 1971. We don’t know if it was the first double album, it was the first double album we (or our parents) ever paid their hard earned money for. Recorded by Isaac Hayes for Staxx Records, it was like nothing we ever heard it. It was long, it was strong, it was deep…and yes, there were instrumentals. Here’s a Little Known Black Sound Track Fact…Isaac Hayes originally thought he would be playing the iconic role of John Shaft instead of Richard Roundtree! The Theme from Shaft won 3 Grammys in 1972. That same year Isaac Hayes became the first African American to win an Academy Award in a non-acting category when theme from
Shaft was awarded best Original Song.
Another cool thing about old school soundtracks is they almost allowed you to almost cuss in front of your mama. A bad mutha…shut your mouth!
The movie Super Fly released in 1972 was a game changer in a lot of ways. While Richard Roundtree’s John Shaft was unlike anyone we had seen on the big screen, so was Ron O’Neal as Super Fly aka Youngblood Priest. The beginning of the Blaxploitation crime dramas, like Shaft it was directed by Gordon Parks. But Super Fly was cocaine dealer. Even if you didn’t see the movie, you had to have heard the soundtrack written, and produced by Curtis Mayfield and to his credit, the Super Fly album out-grossed the movie with hits like Freddie’s Dead and I’m Your Pusher Man. “I’m your mama, I’m your daddy, I’m that n-word in the alley.” Brilliant.
Claudine, 1974: The movie about a Harlem garbage collector who falls in love with a single mother on welfare starred Diahann Carroll and James Earl Jones. But the hit sound track starred Gladys Knight and the Pipps. But let’s not get it twisted. Every song including hits On and On and Make Yours a Happy Home was written and produced by Curtis Mayfield. The album also include Mayfield’s hit The Makings of You.
Car Wash, 1976: Any movie that stars Richard Pryor, Franklyn Ajaye, George Carlin, and the Pointer Sisters is bound to become a classic and it did. It also confirmed the genius of Motown writer/producer Norman Whitfield and introduced us to the group Rose Royce. The soundtrack yielded three Billboard Top 10 singles including Car Wash, I Wanna Get Next to You and I’m Going Down.
Finally we get to the 80s with Purple Rain by Prince and the Revolution, 1984. You remember where you were when you first heard Purple Rain and it sounds just as good when you hear it today. The soundtrack album has sold over 25 million copies and is ranked among the best albums in music history. It won two Grammy Awards and an Oscar.
That’s it babies of the 80s.
But the 90s were mighty kicking it off with New Jack City and For the Love of Money by Troop and Levert featuring Queen Latifah; Boys in the Hood with Me and You by Tony Toni Tone; and The Five Heartbeats Nights Like This all in 1991.
It doesn’t stop there. The Body Guard, starring Whitney Houston topped the charts in 1992 with I Will Always Love You. It won a Grammy for Album of the Year and at 45 million copies sold it may be the best selling soundtrack of all time.
But wait there’s more: Boomerang was also released in 1992. The hit film starring Eddie Murphy was made richer with memorable tracks written by Kenny Babyface Edmonds, Dallas Austin, Antonio Reid, & Daryl Simmons like End of the Road by Boyz II Men and Love Shoulda Brought You Home by newcomer Toni Braxton. Anita Baker was originally meant to sing Toni’s songs but was sidelined due to her pregnancy.
Waiting to Exhale, 1995: The movie directed by Forrest Whitaker featured a star-studded cast and so did the sound track written and produced by Babyface featuring Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, TLC, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, SWV, Chaka Khan, Patti Labelle,Faith Evans and Brandy. Sittin’ Up in My Room was one of its two number one hits.
Soul Food, 1997: Babyface strikes again! This sound track was a huge multi-platinum success thanks to hits like A Song for Mama by Boyz II Men and Dru Hill’s We’re Not Making Love No More.
Love Jones, 1997: The movie Love Jones was released 25 years ago and is still a favorite among us. And we love the soundtrack too. It featured multiple hits including Hopeless by Dionne Farris, Sumthin’ Sumthin’ by Maxwell and The Sweetest Thing by the Refugee Camp All-Stars featuring Lauryn Hill.
Best Man, 1999: The hit movie was directed by Spike Lee’s cousin Malcolm D. Lee. Even though the soundtrack included a lot of established hits like Brick House by the Commodores and Candy by Cameo it also included this Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis song written for the movie The Best Man I Can Be featuring Ginuwine, RL Tyrese and Case.
Okay, go ahead. Tell me what we left out. We can take it!
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The Soundtracks Of Our Lives: My Picks For The Best Movie Soundtracks Of All Time was originally published on blackamericaweb.com