By Ray McDonald
Sunday, February 24 marks the 85th edition of the Academy Awards – now officially re-branded as “The Oscars.” The origins of that name, which attached long ago to the statuette awarded winners, are contested. Legendary actress Bette Davis claimed she gave the little gold guy the nickname “Oscar” because she said it looked like her first husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson. But Margaret Herrick, librarian at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said she was the one who originated the moniker, saying the statue had reminded her of a relative, Oscar Pierce.
While many fans may emphasize the on-screen performers, the two musical categories have also provided their share of excitement. Best Original Score and Best Original Song were both adopted in 1934. Over the years, many superstars have claimed victories in the latter category, and some may surprise you.
Isaac Hayes took the prize in 1971 for his memorable “Theme From ‘Shaft,’” becoming the first African-American to claim the Best Original Song honor. He also made a pretty memorable entrance at his acceptance speech!
Also receiving the award over the years have been: Stevie Wonder, for “I Just Called To Say I Love You” in 1984; Lionel Richie, for “Say You, Say Me” in 1985; Carly Simon, for “Let The River Run” in 1988; Bruce Springsteen, for “Streets Of Philadelphia” in 1993; Elton John, for “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” in 1994; Phil Collins, for “You’ll Be In My Heart” in 1999; Bob Dylan, for “Things Have Changed” in 2000; Eminem, for “Lose Yourself” in 2002; and Melissa Etheridge, the 2006 winner for “I Need To Wake Up.”
Some Oscar-winning songs have had more staying power than others. Seventy-four years after Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg scored with “Over the Rainbow,” the song is still universally loved. By contrast, less than a decade after the Three 6 Mafia won for “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” is there anyone who remembers it at all?
Competing this year are J. Ralph, with “Before My Time” from the movie “Chasing Ice”; Walter Murphy and Seth MacFarlane, with “Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from “Ted”; Mychael Danna and Bombay Jayashri with “Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life Of Pi”; Adele and Paul Epworth with “Skyfall,” from the movie of the same name; and Claude-Michel Schonberg, Herbert Kretzmer, and Alain Boublil with “Suddenly,” from “Les Miserables.”
Who claims the prize? I say Adele takes this one going away. She has tremendous career momentum on her side, while the song itself has been acclaimed as the best James Bond theme in decades.
Who’s your choice?