In the U.S., an obsession with pop culture ad celebrity worship often goes overboard. Film music is usually far removed from that. But even in our sheltered little niche, we too have our gods and demi-gods. “The Cult of Jerry Goldsmith” stands out from the crowd. Not even John Williams inspires such bowing and kowtowing.
Goldsmith’s talent and craftsmanship are undeniable as is his status as a film music giant. Goldsmith was my initial entry into film music and he will forever hold a special place in my heart. But I am amazed at the idolatry that surrounds his work these days.
The release of a Goldsmith score, even for the most wretched of films, nearly always sells out. And depending on the amount of the limited edition, it usually sells out overnight.
If someone polled the entire film music community for the Top 10 composers, I’d bet money that Goldsmith would land on top. So what is it about his music that generates such devoted interest from so many fans?
- Is there something particular in his compositional style that speaks to more fans? If so, what are the specifics that make his music stand out above his contemporaries and predecessors?
- Is it the films themselves? If it is, then what’s the explanation for the popularity of lesser titles like LINK, INCHON, and THE SWARM? Is it his ability to write music that rises above such drivel on screen?
- Is it a perceived “underdog” status? A lot of message board threads question why Jerry won only one Oscar. Considering most people’s disdain of the awards themselves, I don’t see why winning more of them would have given him the “proper” credit due (not that the Oscars are the pinnacle of someone’s “success” by any stretch of the imagination).
- Or is it simply inexplicable emotional reactions to the music itself? If so, what are those reactions?
Given my Oscar obsession, it’s probably no surprise that from my earliest days of discovering film music, my approach to a particular score is usually through the project itself, rather than through the composer. Even when I’m a fan (for lack of a better word) of a particular composer, I’m probably not interested in everything they compose. If the film interests me, then the music will probably interest me as well.
I personally don’t trust any single-minded devotion to a particular entity, whether it’s a composer, a sports team, an actor, a religious figure, or what have you. I don’t want to give anyone or anything that kind of power in my life, much less my energy. Maybe that’s a defect on my part.
I’m not attempting to slam Jerry (not that he would have cared anyway), denigrate your beliefs, or call into question your entertainment choices. By all means, let’s admire the talents of others, whether it’s a stranger or a close friend. Those talents can be truly inspirational. For me, that’s a celebration of what makes each of us unique. But blind devotion to anyone or anything freaks me out.
And “The Cult of Jerry Goldsmith” freaks me out.
Is the “cult of Jerry” a figment of my imagination? If not, I’d love to hear your thoughts on his influence on you personally and what you think of the whole Goldsmith phenomenon.