1977 - Best Original Song
The nominees were...
"Candle on the Water," Pete's Dragon
"Someone's Waiting for You," The Rescuers
"The Slipper and the Rose Waltz (He Danced with Me/She Danced with Me)," The Slipper and the Rose
"Nobody Does It Better," The Spy Who Loved Me
"You Light Up My Life," You Light Up My Life
WON: "You Light Up My Life," You Light Up My Life
SHOULD'VE WON: "Nobody Does It Better," The Spy Who Loved Me
1977 is a tough year to take very seriously in Best Original Song, and not just because of the winner - the sleepy, cornball "You Light Up My Life." This was the dumbfounding occasion in which the Academy inexplicably ignored both the legendary "Theme from New York, New York" and entire soundtrack from Saturday Night Fever.
"Theme from New York, New York," later ranked #31 on AFI's list of "100 Years...100 Songs," marks some of the finest, most iconic work composers Fred Ebb and John Kander (and performer Liza Minnelli, for that matter) have ever done. The tune, later covered to even greater success by Frank Sinatra, was likely hurt by the middling box office and critical reception to the picture at the time. Now, however, not unlike then-misfires like Sorcerer, Heaven's Gate and They All Laughed, it seems many, if not most have come around to conceding New York, New York is actually one hell of a film, unfairly maligned at a time when audiences and much of the industry balked at idiosyncratic efforts by some of the most groundbreaking directors from the early-to-mid-'70s. And the song has certainly more than stood the test of time.
As for Saturday Night Fever, you could have easily filled the entire Best Original Song category exclusively with songs from the film - "How Deep Is Your Love," "If I Can't Have You," "More Than a Woman," "Night Fever" and of course "Stayin' Alive" were all richly deserving of recognition here. I suppose one could argue these five songs simply canceled one another out in some way but more likely, the Academy, which fell head-over-heels for fluff like "You Light Up My Life," simply wasn't hip enough to get the magic of this soundtrack.
Even the Golden Globes, which more often than not don't quite get it right, had the brains to nominate "Theme from New York, New York" and "How Deep Is Your Love" at their ceremony this year, even though both fell victim to "You Light Up My Life."
So, at last, let's discuss the winning song this year. "You Light Up My Life" isn't quite as stinky as some other winners in this category (coughMaureenMcGoverncough) but it's still pretty turgid stuff. This original version was actually performed by Kasey Cisyk, not Debby Boone, and her pleasant performance keeps the tune reasonably listenable. It's also not quite the worst nominee in this category - that "honor" goes to the waltz from The Slipper and the Rose, the completely forgettable live action Cinderella starring Richard Chamberlain.
Two nominees from second-tier Disney pictures - Pete's Dragon's "Candle on the Water" (performed by the great Helen Reddy) and The Rescuers' "Someone's Waiting for You" - are more moving, nuanced examples of '70s adult contemporary than "You Light Up My Life," which tends to be bombastic in its efforts to tug at the heartstrings. If not for the snubbed songs this year, I wouldn't terribly mind these two having been recognized.
The nominee that clearly should have prevailed here, however, is the best Bond song of all, Carly Simon's riveting "Nobody Does It Better," from the strongest Roger Moore entry in the series, The Spy Who Loved Me. Composed by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager, this is about as good as soft rock gets. It was understandably a big, fat Billboard hit at the time and holds up infinitely better than something like "You Light Up My Life."
The Oscar-winners ranked (thus far)...
- "Over the Rainbow," The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- "The Way You Look Tonight," Swing Time (1936)
- "High Hopes," A Hole in the Head (1959)
- "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)," The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
- "Mona Lisa," Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
- "Baby, It's Cold Outside," Neptune's Daughter (1949)
- "The Windmills of Your Mind," The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
- "The Way We Were," The Way We Were (1973)
- "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
- "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, On My Darlin')," High Noon (1952)
- "I'm Easy," Nashville (1975)
- "You'll Never Know," Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
- "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," The Harvey Girls (1946)
- "Theme from Shaft," Shaft (1971)
- "Secret Love," Calamity Jane (1953)
- "White Christmas," Holiday Inn (1942)
- "Moon River," Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
- "When You Wish Upon a Star," Pinocchio (1940)
- "Thanks for the Memory," The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
- "Lullaby of Broadway," Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
- "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," Song of the South (1947)
- "Days of Wine and Roses," Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
- "For All We Know," Lovers and Other Strangers (1970)
- "All the Way," The Joker Is Wild (1957)
- "It Might As Well Be Spring," State Fair (1945)
- "The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady Be Good (1941)
- "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," Here Comes the Groom (1951)
- "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
- "Born Free," Born Free (1966)
- "Never on Sunday," Never on Sunday (1960)
- "Three Coins in the Fountain," Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
- "Chim Chim Cher-ee," Mary Poppins (1964)
- "Call Me Irresponsible," Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
- "Evergreen (Theme from A Star Is Born)," A Star Is Born (1976)
- "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
- "You Light Up My Life," You Light Up My Life (1977)
- "Gigi," Gigi (1958)
- "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
- "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
- "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)
- "Talk to the Animals," Doctor Dolittle (1967)
- "The Shadow of Your Smile," The Sandpiper (1965)
- "The Morning After," The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
- "We May Never Love Like This Again," The Towering Inferno (1974)