Larry Martino

Larry Martino

Larry Martino

Five Oscar statuettes displayed backstage on a table at a recent Academy Awards ceremony. Behind the trophies, an orchestra conductor readies musicians to begin playing music.

Of course, 96.3 KKLZ plays lots of big movie hits from the 1980’s. It was a fantastic decade for movie music. But when you look at all the Oscar winning songs from years past, you realize how important movie music really is. Some of the most enduring popular songs of all time were created and recorded specifically for film. So, before we get to the Oscar® winners for the first half of the 1980’s, let’s look at the history of the Best Original Song category. And, if you’d like to review the Academy Award winning songs of the last half of the decade, click here.

History Of Popular Music In America Is Closely Tied To Film

As you might expect, I’m the most familiar with music of my lifetime. I’m sure that is the case for you as well. However, the older you get, the longer you’ve been around, the more you know about music. Especially enduring songs that receive new life through television shows and movies of today. Moreover, if you watch any movies from before your time, you certainly become aware of some of the American movie songs that have become “standards.”

The Academy Award for Best Original Song was first awarded in 1934 to “The Continental.” That is from the film The Gay Divorcee. Looking at the Academy Awards database for this category reveals so many recognizable titles. In the 1930’s alone I recognize song titles such as “The Lullaby of Broadway” from the film Gold Diggers of 1935. How about that enduring love song “The Way You Look Tonight” from the 1936 film Swing Time? Legendary comedian Bob Hope’s signature song “Thanks For The Memory” won the Oscar® from the movie Big Broadcast of 1938. And of course, a song everyone knows, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

Oscar Winning Songs Stand The Test Of Time

Now, check out some of these other songs that have remained popular through the years, From the 1940’s there was “When You Wish Upon A Star,” “White Christmas,” “Swinging On A Star,” “Buttons And Bows,” “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah,” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

Furthermore, from the 1950’s, tunes like “Mona Lisa,” “Three Coins In A Fountain,” “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing,” and “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera Sera)” would win the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The 1960’s brought us “Moon River,” “Call Me Irresponsible,” “Born Free,” and “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.” Additionally, the 1970’s gave us “Theme From Shaft,” “The Way We Were,” “You Light Up My Life,” and “Last Dance.”

Quite a history of Oscar® winners and popular music. So let’s see which popular songs win the coveted Academy Award during the first half of the 1980’s.

Updated on March 5, 2024

  • 1980: "Fame"

    If you had asked me which came first: Fame the television series or Fame the movie, I would have said the TV show. That’s probably because I remember watching the TV show before I ever watched the movie. However, the movie was released in 1980, and the television series ran for six seasons beginning in January 1982, according to I was also surprised to learn that two songs from this movie were up for Best Original Song for 1980. Irene Cara recorded both “Fame,” the winner of the Oscar®, and “Out Here On My Own,” which was also nominated. Other nominees that year include “9 to 5” from the film of the same name by Dolly Parton, “On The Road Again” by Willie Nelson from the film Honeysuckle Rose, and “People Alone” by Lalo Schifrin and Will Jennings from the film The Competition.

  • 1981: "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)"

    Man, that Christopher Cross sure knows how to win awards, doesn’t he? His self-titled debut album cleaned up at the 1980 Grammy Awards. He won the four major categories: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Songs of the Year, and Best New Artist. Then, he records the theme song for the movie Arthur and wins the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Pretty impressive resume. I still love watching the original film Arthur. Dudley Moore is hilarious, and heart-breaking at the same time. Liza Minelli is fantastic, and veteran English actor John Gielgud steals the show. I know all the jokes coming up in that film, but I still laugh at them. Other notable nominees in 1981 include “Endless Love” by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie from the film of the same name, and “For Your Eyes Only” by Sheena Easton from the James Bond film of the same name.

  • 1982: "Up Where We Belong"

    The film An Officer And A Gentleman was a big box office success. And although the music and radio industries thought the love theme from that movie was a very odd pairing, the public loved “Up Where We Belong.” Admittedly, the gravel-throated voice of Joe Cocker, paired with the smooth-sounding Jennifer Warnes, was indeed an odd pairing for a duet. But the song works on so many levels. And, if you’re a fan of the movie, emotion wells up inside you when Richard Gere picks up Debra Winger at the end of the film and carries her out, with this song featured during the final scenes. Other notable nominees that year include “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor from Rocky III, “It Might Be You” by Stephen Bishop from the film Tootsie, and “How Do You Keep The Music Playing” by James Ingram and Patti Austin from the film Best Friends.

  • 1983: "Flashdance...What A Feeling"

    Apparently, there were not a lot of films featuring Oscar®-worthy songs in 1983. Two Barbra Streisand songs were nominated from her film Yentl: “Papa, Can You Hear Me?,” and “The Way He Makes Me Feel.” Similarly, two songs were nominated from the film Flashdance: “Maniac” by Michael Sembello, and the eventual winning theme song, “Flashdance…What A Feeling” by Irene Cara. Not only did that song win the Academy Award for Best Original Song that year, Irene Cara would win a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

  • 1984: "I Just Called To Say I Love You"

    Five #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart battled it out to claim the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1984. The film Footloose provided two nominees, including the theme song by Kenny Loggins, and “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” by Deniece Williams. Then you had the catchy theme song from the sci-fi comedy Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr. Next up, Phil Collins with his first of seven solo chart-toppers during the 80s with the love theme from the film Against All Odds. Finally, Stevie Wonder’s pop smash “I Just Called To Say I Love You” from the romantic comedy The Woman In Red. Mr. Wonder would give the acceptance speech that year, and he had to beat out a lot of tough competition to do so.

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