No matter what you think of Michael Gore’s Academy Award-winning score to FAME (1980), there’s no denying the impact of the film’s graduation finale–“I Sing the Body Electric.”
I sing the body electric I celebrate the me yet to come I toast to my own reunion When I become one with the sun
Dean Pitchford’s lyrics are a bit flowery and obtuse perhaps (the title comes from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass), but they still resonate with that innocent 17-year-old from long ago.
In his commentary for the DVD, director Alan Parker explains that he asked for “a huge number to conclude the entire film” that showcased each individual talent, so that “each one gets their chance.” The number integrates every actor, singer, dancer, teacher, student, parent. “This piece of music was completely constructed to achieve all of those dramatic ends, so it absolutely is totally organic the way Michael and Dean wrote it, to fit the way I wanted to shoot. … Everything matters, and everyone can be great, and this is meant to show everybody. … The whole film zips with all that incredible energy and enthusiasm and passion and talent these kids have, zips into this conclusion.”
It probably comes as no surprise to readers of this blog that this film made a great impact on me. To this day, I can recite the entire lyric, hear nearly every note of orchestration in my head, and picture every camera shot from the number–the expressions on the kids’ faces, their hand movements, the way they move their mouths when they sing. It’s a truly moving finale that still gives me goosebumps and brings tears to my eyes, partially from nostalgia, partially from unfulfilled dreams.