Oscar Flashback: Best Original Songs of the late 1970s, including ‘Last Dance,’ ‘It Goes Like It Goes’

This article marks Part 15 of the Gold Derby series analyzing 84 years of Best Original Song at the Oscars. Join us as we look back at the timeless tunes recognized in this category, the results of each race and the overall rankings of the winners.

The 1978 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“Ready to Take a Chance Again” from “Foul Play”
“Hopelessly Devoted to You” from “Grease”
“When You’re Loved” from “The Magic of Lassie”
“The Last Time I Felt Like This” from “Same Time, Next Year”
“Last Dance” from “Thank God It’s Friday”

Won: “Last Dance” from “Thank God It’s Friday”

Should’ve won: “Ready to Take a Chance Again” from “Foul Play”

After the ho-hum affairs of 1976 and 1977, it’s nice to come upon a Best Original Song line-up with not just one or two listenable nominees. In fact, 45 years of Best Original Song in, 1978 marks one of the stronger categories.

This year, voters chose to reward “Last Dance,” the plenty enjoyable disco classic, heavenly performed by the late Donna Summer. Sure, the song debuted in a crummy picture, the silly “Thank God It’s Friday,” which marked one of Motown Productions’ lesser forays into the world of cinema. The tune is still unimpeachably great, composed by the brilliant Paul Jbara, who delivered this and “It’s Raining Men,” among other records.

Even better is “Ready to Take a Chance Again,” the theme from the criminally underrated “Foul Play,” which features Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase at the very top of their game. Performed by Barry Manilow, whose tunes dominated the airwaves around this time, it’s just about the best adult contemporary can be.

Also memorable is “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” one of the small handful of original songs from the smash movie adaptation of “Grease.” Belted out by the irresistible Olivia Newton-John, it’s a real charmer.

The remaining two nominees aren’t quite in the same league as the aforementioned three, though they aren’t half-bad either. “When You’re Loved,” from “The Magic of Lassie”, is a pleasant endeavor, striking many of the same notes as “I Feel Love,” the theme from “Benji” (1974). “The Last Time I Felt Like This,” from the great Ellen Burstyn-Alan Alda dramedy “Same Time, Next Year,” pairs the same composers from “The Way We Were” (Marvin Hamlisch and Alan and Marilyn Bergman) with Johnny Mathis and Jane Olivor. Great artists all-around but they’re not really operating at their peak here. Still, it’s a decent tune.

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The 1979 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“Through the Eyes of Love” from “Ice Castles”
“The Rainbow Connection” from “The Muppet Movie”
“It Goes Like It Goes” from “Norma Rae”
“I’ll Never Say Goodbye” from “The Promise”
“It’s Easy to Say” from “10”

Won: “It Goes Like It Goes” from “Norma Rae”

Should’ve won: “The Rainbow Connection” from “The Muppet Movie”

A cloud of eligibility confusion hovers over 1979 Best Original Song, a category that presumably would have been dominated by “The Rose” (from the eponymous Bette Midler film) – which won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song – if only it hadn’t been deemed ineligible for consideration.

The beautiful, haunting tune, written by Amanda McBroom, had never been formally recorded prior to “The Rose” but when questioned, McBroom stated honestly that she hadn’t composed the track specifically for the film. Instead, she’d written the song a couple of years prior and had performed it in a few clubs along the way. Given McBroom’s answer, it was quickly disqualified it for consideration.

“The Rose,” perhaps among the 25 or so all-time greatest songs associated with a motion picture, is vastly superior to all of voters’ selections in 1979, a mostly middling grab bag of forgettable adult contemporary.

Voters ultimately sided with the only contender from a Best Picture nominee, “It Goes Like It Goes” from the great Sally Field vehicle “Norma Rae.” Performed by Jennifer Warnes, who would go on to headline or co-headline several more Best Original Song nominees (including two winners) over the coming decade, it’s a listenable piece of soft rock with some fine instrumental work (the music is by the great David Shire) but nothing terribly memorable, especially in comparison to something like “The Rose.”

The winner is, however, vastly preferable to the likes of “Through the Eyes of Love” and “I’ll Never Say Goodbye,” two supremely dreary tracks performed by Melissa Manchester. Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager (who composed the “Ice Castles” song) and Shire and Alan and Marilyn Bergman (on “The Promise”), usually brilliant musicians, were all asleep at the wheel here.

This one’s a somewhat close call between “It’s Easy to Say,” from the iconic Blake Edwards comedy “10,” and “The Rainbow Connection,” the opening number from the classic “The Muppet Movie.” Despite being composed by Oscar winners Henry Mancini and Paul Williams respectively, neither is a spectacular piece of music but both are charmingly performed, by Dudley Moore and Julie Andrews on the former, and Jim Henson (as Kermit the Frog) on the latter. “It’s Easy to Say” is respectable but it doesn’t tug on my heartstrings like “The Rainbow Connection” does, so edge to Kermit here.

In terms of the snubbed, beyond “The Rose,” it would’ve been sweet to see The Ramones‘ “Rock ‘n Roll High School” from “Rock ‘n Roll High School” nominated here.

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The Oscar winners ranked (thus far):

1. “Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)
2. “The Way You Look Tonight” from “Swing Time” (1936)
3. “High Hopes” from “A Hole in the Head” (1959)
4. “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” from “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956)
5. “Mona Lisa” from “Captain, Carey, U.S.A.” (1950)
6. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from “Neptune’s Daughter” (1949)
7. “The Windmills of Your Mind” from “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968)
8. “The Way We Were” from “The Way We Were” (1973)
9. “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969)
10. “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’)” from “High Noon” (1952)
11. “I’m Easy” from “Nashville” (1975)
12. “You’ll Never Know” from “Hello, Frisco, Hello” (1943)
13. “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” from “The Harvey Girls” (1946)
14. “Theme from ‘Shaft’” from “Shaft” (1971)
15. “Secret Love” from “Calamity Jane” (1953)
16. “White Christmas” from “Holiday Inn” (1942)
17. “Moon River” from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961)
18. “When You Wish Upon a Star” from “Pinocchio” (1940)
19. “Thanks for the Memory” from “The Big Broadcast of 1938” (1938)
20. “Lullaby of Broadway” from “Gold Diggers of 1935” (1935)
21. “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” from “Song of the South” (1947)
22. “Last Dance” from “Thank God It’s Friday” (1978)
23. “Days of Wine and Roses” from “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962)
24. “For All We Know” from “Lovers and Other Strangers” (1970)
25. “All the Way” from “The Joker Is Wild” (1957)
26. “It Might As Well Be Spring” from “State Fair” (1945)
27. “The Last Time I Saw Paris” from “Lady Be Good” (1941)
28. “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” from “Here Comes the Groom” (1951)
29. “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” from “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” (1955)
30. “It Goes Like It Goes” from “Norma Rae” (1979)
31. “Born Free” from “Born Free” (1966)
32. “Never on Sunday” from “Never on Sunday” (1960)
33. “Three Coins in the Fountain” from “Three Coins in the Fountain” (1954)
34. “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from “Mary Poppins” (1964)
35. “Call Me Irresponsible” from “Papa’s Delicate Condition” (1963)
36. “Evergreen (Theme from ‘A Star Is Born’)” from “A Star Is Born” (1976)
37. “Swinging on a Star” from “Going My Way” (1944)
38. “You Light Up My Life” from “You Light Up My Life” (1977)
39. “Gigi” from “Gigi” (1958)
40. “Sweet Leilani” from “Waikiki Wedding” (1937)
41. “The Continental” from “The Gay Divorcee” (1934)
42. “Buttons and Bows” from “The Paleface” (1948)
43. “Talk to the Animals” from “Doctor Dolittle” (1967)
44. “The Shadow of Your Smile” from “The Sandpiper” (1965)
45. “The Morning After” from “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972)
46. “We May Never Love Like This Again” from “The Towering Inferno” (1974)

SEE Best Original Songs of the 1930s, including ‘Over the Rainbow,’ ‘The Way You Look Tonight’

SEE ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ is first Disney winner in Best Original Song

SEE Best Original Songs of the early 1940s, including ‘White Christmas’ and ‘You’ll Never Know’

SEE Best Original Songs of the late 1940s, including ‘Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah’ and ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’

SEE Best Original Songs of the early 1950s, including ‘Mona Lisa,’ ‘High Noon’

SEE Judy Garland classic from ‘A Star is Born’ loses Best Original Song to Frank Sinatra standard

SEE Best Original Songs of the late 1950s, including ‘All the Way,’ ‘High Hopes’

SEE Best Original Songs of the early 1960s, including ‘Moon River,’ ‘Days of Wine and Roses’

SEE Best Original Songs of the late 1960s, including ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’

SEE Best Original Songs of the early 1970s, including ‘Theme from ‘Shaft,’ ‘The Morning After’

SEE ‘Live and Let Die’ no match for ‘The Way We Were’ in Best Original Song

SEE Best Original Songs of the mid-1970s, including ‘I’m Easy,’ ‘Evergreen’

SEE ‘New York, New York,’ ‘Saturday Night Fever’ snubbed in Best Original Song

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