Movies had been part of the American culture for decades before the first song was sung on screen. As a matter of fact, for years, there was no music at all except for the pianos played in theaters during silent movies. The earliest songs in American film were in “The Jazz Singer” released in 1927. It starred singer Al Jolson, who was also a popular comedian, and actor. Among the songs in the film were “Dirty Hands, Dirty Face” and “Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Goo’ Bye)”. The movie has come to be among the most prominent examples of racism in film, among other things because of Jolson’s use of “blackface”.
Since “The Jazz Singer”, there have been thousands of songs in films. Some of these were launched in the movies they were written for. Others were songs that had been in circulation before the films they were in had been made.
To pick the greatest song from American movies, 24/7 Tempo reviewed a ranking by the American Film Institute entitled “100 Years…100 Songs.”
AFI members nominated some 400 memorable songs, from throughout movie history, for consideration, then a panel of jurors ranked them according to these criteria: Songs had to come from English-language feature films; they had to “set a tone or mood, define character, advance plot, and/or express the film’s themes in a manner that elevates the moving image art form;” and they had to have had cultural impact, becoming part of our collective memory of the film itself and resonating across the decades.
From Julie Andrews and Diсk Van Dyke singing “Supercalifragilisticeexpialidocious” to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” each song we considered enhances the enduring iconography of the film it comes from. Of course, don’t take that to mean they’re employed toward similar ends. Movies run the full gamut of ideas and emotions and so too do the songs they feature.
Take the aforementioned example of “Supercalifragilisticeexpialidocious,” which delivers pure escapist fantasy. By contrast, “Fight the Power” is a call to action with overt socio-political messaging. A song like “Wind Beneath My Wings” invokes sadness while “Rock Around the Clock” instantly transports us to a bygone era. These songs and others like them help movies evoke emotional experiences. Movies wouldn’t be the same without them.
The greatest song from American movies is “Over the Rainbow”. Here are the details:
> Composer(s): Harold Arlen, E.Y. Harburg
> Performer(s): Judy Garland
> Movie: The Wizard of Oz (1939)