The Day the Music Died

With no disrespect to Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and “The Big Bopper,” for many film music fans July 21, 2004, was “the day the music died.” I remember I was sitting in front of my computer, much like I am right now, when I heard of the death of Jerry Goldsmith. I felt like I had been punched in the gut. The reaction was so real, so visceral and primal, that I immediately sank into a lethargic funk that lasted for days. Even my therapist asked about it. I had never met Goldsmith, but I felt like I had lost a beloved teacher or mentor.

Frequent readers of this blog are familiar with my love for Goldsmith’s score to THE OMEN, my first soundtrack purchase. I was fortunate enough to discover Jerry’s music during a particularly lucrative period in his output. Titles like THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, STAR TREK – THE MOTION PICTURE, UNDER FIRE, and HOOSIERS helped shape my love for film music and guided me through my first decade of film music discovery.

On that summer day when I first heard the news, I plowed through my numerous Goldsmith scores looking for the perfect music to help me remember the man and his music. Nothing seemed right. I was unfamiliar with his score for ISLANDS IN THE STREAM, but remembered reading that it was a particular favorite of his. Thanks to the good folks at the now-defunct Footlight Records, I was able to find a copy with relative ease.

From that opening clarinet arpeggio and lush, heartbreaking French horn main theme, this was the music I had been looking for. Nothing sappy or syrupy. It was simply right, like so much of Goldsmith’s music.

The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer in that Goldsmith’s music has not, and will never, die. Fans of his music have greeted with enthusiasm the many surprise releases this year of previously unavailable music. Five years after his death, Goldsmith is one of the only composers,  if not the only composer, to regularly sell out. It doesn’t matter what the title is, film score fans can’t get enough of Jerry’s music.

Since his death, for some reason I’ve denied myself the pleasures of his music, whether newly released scores or favorites in my collection, except for THE OMEN (of course) and a couple of other titles. I can’t really explain why. But that seems to be changing.

Film Score Monthly’s recent expanded TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE and Varese Sarabande’s LONELY ARE THE BRAVE, Goldsmith’s first major score, have “reintroduced” me to this very special composer. So to celebrate Jerry’s many musical gifts, I think I’ll begin with the soaring “Kick the Can” sequence from TWILIGHT ZONE, music that speaks of life and love, and then just let the iPod shuffle through his remarkable output.

I wouldn’t recommend my ridiculous brand of self-denial. But, oh, imagine the voyage of rediscovery that awaits me.

15 comments

  1. Thanks for that, Jim. I didn’t realize today was the anniversary of that sad day.

    I’m really jealous that you discovered Jerry early on. I’m a late bloomer, as my film music passion growing up was really just a John Williams obsession (mostly). I was peripherally familiar with Jerry, and owned his Air Force One score. But since I hardly ever pursued a score to a film I’d never seen – and since I’d never seen most of Jerry’s movies – our paths just never really crossed.

    It was only within the last couple of years that I began to explore Jerry’s career, and it wasn’t long before it became a consuming obsession! I was always a bit irked when people set him on as high a pedestal as Williams (or higher), but now I understand. He really was a genius. Not only that; his music speaks to me.

    That “Kick the Can” segment of TZ: The Movie is easily in my top ten Jerry pieces. It represents everything I love about his music; I adore his lyrical, beautiful, heartbreaking melody writing. That one segment encompasses so many emotions, and when Scatman Crothers comes in at the climax I just break down like a baby.

    I (randomly?) started listening to Jerry’s Nemesis score first thing this morning…and now I think I’ll listen to his music all day in his honor.

    1. I don’t know what it is about that “Kick the Can” segment. I haven’t seen the movie since it’s original release 20+ years ago. I only remember it as very syrupy Spielberg. But Jerry’s music captures what I think Spielberg was going for, without the saccharine quality. And, like you, the Scatman Crothers part is essential, otherwise it’s just a bunch of changing chords in the background. You need that voice, those lyrics, AND those chords. Essential Goldsmith.

      I’m going to load up the iPod with as much JG as I can. Since I’ll be spending most of the day at the library, it’s the perfect way to make the research time fly by.

      Enjoy your celebration.

  2. I love so many of the maestro’s scores.. but my favourite is Mulan, which was my first Goldsmith score and which is very dear to me till this day. He will always live on through his immortal music!

  3. Sadly I discovered Goldsmith far too late. The good part is that I have now so much yet to discover. There are treasures here and there and although I don’t hold him as high as the people who grew up with his music, I certainly miss him… miss him a lot actually.

    At least we will have the music and a lot of his stuff is still unreleased… bring on Gremlins!

    1. I don’t think there’s such a thing as “too late.” The music will always be there, and really do have a lot to discover. How fun! :) (Though I still don’t get the whole GREMLINS thing. LOL)

  4. I agree with you completely on the ‘Kick the Can’ track. I recently got the old version of the ‘Twilight’ score. I have never seen the movie. But this track stuck out at me hugely. It is so amazing, and I love every second of it.

  5. I can’t really describe how much I love Jerry Goldsmith’s scores. They blow me away!

    He is the reason I got in to writing music. The day I watched “Star Trek: First Contact” I knew I wanted to write music for film.

    Jerry’s work brings a tears to my eye sometimes, it’s so beautiful, and other times so raw and powerful!

    He may have left us, but his music will live on forever! One of the greatest composers who ever lived :)
    .-= Wendell´s last blog ..M.E.T. =-.

    1. There just was nobody else like him. Like you, Wendell, he can bring me to tears. And thank you for stating that he was one of the greatest composers, and not just for film, because it’s true. Hmm, I think I need to put on some Goldsmith. :)

      1. Way ahead of you! I wish I could have heard him conduct some of his pieces live, or even shook his hand!
        .-= Wendell´s last blog ..M.E.T. =-.

        1. I wish I could have heard conduct as well. As for shaking his hand, I would have been just a tongue-tied idiot, which somehow I doubt he would have appreciated. LOL

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