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Phillips: What’s your soundtrack?

Posted: July 14, 2015 4:39 p.m.
Updated: July 15, 2015 1:00 a.m.

Sometimes the inspiration for my weekly column comes from the strangest of places. Often, there’s a hot news story, usually controversial, I feel like espousing my opinion about. That’s not so strange. Other times, I think back to something which has happened in my life, hopefully funny, to share with you. That also is not particularly strange. But this week the idea came to me as I sat at home playing my guitar and trying to figure out some new songs I had never played before. None of them were really “new,” but they were new to me.

One such number was the 1982 hit song “Eye of the Tiger” by the group Survivor. Survivor was far from a “one-hit wonder,” but “Eye of the Tiger” is far and away their biggest and best-known song. Just in case you don’t know the story behind the song, actor and movie mogul Sylvester Stallone asked that the song be written specifically for his film “Rocky III.” That’s the one in which Rocky got a little too comfortable as the heavyweight boxing champion and got a sound thrashing from Clubber Lang, played by Mr. T. Of course, Rocky got his act back together and reclaimed his title in the end, but only after discovering “The Eye of the Tiger,” which basically means the focus, drive and killer instinct needed to be the best boxer in the world.

Motion pictures have long depended on stirring music to go along with the film and dialogue and the Rocky series serves as the best example of the perfect marriage between cinema and soundtrack. Every film in that series features a dramatic “training sequence” showing how hard Rocky works in preparation for his upcoming fight. From the original film with the unknown fighter running the streets of Philadelphia and up the massive steps of the public library while theme song “Gonna Fly Now” plays to the viewers emotions, on through all the subsequent installments, the music always helps propel the story along and is the perfect fit for the film sequence we’re seeing.

Of course, it’s not just the Rocky films. When we heard the bass violins and cellos and other low-register instruments going “bum-bum-bumpa, bum-bum-bumpa” in Jaws, we just knew the menacing shark was not far away. But it invoked a certain feeling of dread which made us all tense up, ready for the surprise moment when the shark showed itself. We knew what was coming, but when it happened, we jumped anyway. The music was designed and crafted to do that very thing, and it worked.

Pay close attention next time you watch a movie, no matter when it was made or what genre it fits into. Right before the bad guy shows up, the music gets dark and serious sounding. When the hero saves the girl the music is triumphant -- lighter and happy sounding. When the local teenagers finally get to have a dance despite the objections of the uptight town minister, they all get a little “Footloose.” OK, that one was a little too easy, but you get the point.

So, in the movie of your life, what does your soundtrack sound like? Is it ominous and evil sounding, or is it upbeat and happy? My guess is, if you’re like most of us, myself included, it would be a mixture of a lot of different musical moods. That’s what life is like, on the silver screen and out here in the real world, a mix of highs and lows, ups and downs, victories and defeats. That, as they say, is life. 


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