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

This article marks Part 13 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 1974 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“I Feel Love” from “Benji”
“Blazing Saddles” from “Blazing Saddles”
“Wherever Love Takes Me” from “Gold”
“Little Prince” from “The Little Prince”
“We May Never Love Like This Again” from “The Towering Inferno”

Won: “We May Never Love Like This Again” from “The Towering Inferno”

Should’ve won: “I Feel Love” from “Benji”

While 1973 marked perhaps the strongest Best Original Song line-up of the decade, 1974 nearly competes with the truly dreadful 1972 as the decade’s bottom of the barrel in original music for the big screen. If not for a couple of these nominees, this category would be about on-par with the sounds of cats shrieking or knives on a chalkboard.

The two somewhat redeeming nominees here are “I Feel Love,” the cute, supremely pleasant theme from the cute, supremely pleasant “Benji,” and “Blazing Saddles,” from the side-splitting Mel Brooks film. While the nomination for “Blazing Saddles” is fun, it isn’t an especially funny or memorable tune. In fact, it could serve as the theme to just about any generic western. It’s not a bad song, just a slight one, and that gives the solid edge to the “Benji” track.

Beyond Benji and Brooks, however, this line-up is not something to be celebrated.

Two of these songs are performed by Maureen McGovern. The one non-McGovern track is “Little Prince,” from the eponymous Stanley Donen picture. The Donen film is fine, an idiosyncratic fantasy-musical featuring the likes of Gene Wilder, Bob Fosse and Donna McKechnie, but the music, from the Alan Jay Lerner-Frederick Lowe team, is awfully underwhelming, with the same tiresome talk-singing that was so prominent in their “Gigi” (1958) and “My Fair Lady” (1964)

“Little Prince” is not, however, quite as ear-piercing as the remaining two tracks, both belted out by the McGovern, who managed to attach herself to some of the decade’s stinkiest cheese on the big screen.

The losing McGovern song, “Wherever Love Takes Me,” from the deservedly forgotten Roger Moore yarn “Gold,” is actually a tad less horrendous than the winner this year, “We May Never Love Like This Again,” from from Irwin Allen‘s star-studded “The Towering Inferno.” Somehow, this song manages to be even more shamelessly sentimental than McGovern’s “The Morning After,” which in 1972 seemed to set new standards for movie music slop.

In terms of tunes snubbed in 1974,it was pretty slim pickings all-around this year, although Curtis Mayfield‘s soulful “On and On,” performed by Gladys Knight and the Pips for “Claudine,” is head and shoulders above all of the songs recognized here. Beyond that, however, there’s not a whole lot – even the James Bond theme this year, “The Man with the Golden Gun,” is a snooze.

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The 1975 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“How Lucky Can You Get” from “Funny Lady”
“Do You Know Where You’re Going To” from “Mahogany”
“I’m Easy” from “Nashville”
“Richard’s Window” from “The Other Side of the Mountain”
“Now That We’re in Love” from “Whiffs”

Won: “I’m Easy” from “Nashville”

Should’ve won: “Do You Know Where You’re Going To” from “Mahogany”

Now this is one heck of a line-up.

Let’s first concede that the only halfway decent film of these five nominees is “Nashville,” the brilliant Robert Altman ensemble piece that surely deserved more than just a single win on Oscar night. “Funny Lady” and “Mahogany” are middling endeavors, though at least have some camp value – the other two, the dreary and manipulative “The Other Side of the Mountain” and entirely unmemorable “Whiffs,” have little redeeming value.

All five of these original songs, however, regardless of the quality of the films, are pretty dynamite, though there are two clear second-tier nominees – “Now That We’re in Love,” a listenable albeit rather generic Steve Lawrence tune that marked Sammy Cahn‘s final Oscar nomination, and “Richard’s Window,” a pleasant number for Olivia Newton-John that’s a bit on the corny side but sold nicely by the vocalist.

From there, it’s an awfully tough call.

“Funny Lady,” the unnecessary sequel to “Funny Girl” (1968), is not a great film, but it was at least a bit notable for its original music, composed by the legendary Fred Ebb and John Kander. “How Lucky Can You Get,” while no “People” or “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” is a marvelous showcase for Barbra Streisand, with some exciting arrangements and instrumentals. It’s a tad on the long side but there’s enough energy here to sustain the whole thing.

Keith Carradine‘s “I’m Easy” is a beautiful piece and particularly effective and moving in the context of the picture. The haunting look on Lily Tomlin’s face as Carradine sings this is unforgettable. It also works quite well on its own terms, and was indeed a modest Billboard hit at the time, but certainly the visual of that scene gives it a very striking lift.

“Do You Know Where You’re Going To” is really one of the great pop-R&B records of the 1970s, and perhaps the finest solo record Diana Ross ever produced. “Mahogany” is a mess and to some extent recalls “Valley of the Dolls” (1967), which too featured a dazzling theme, performed in that case by Dionne Warwick. Somehow, these two turgid soap operas managed to bring out the very best in two of the greatest artists of this area.

Both “I’m Easy” and “Do You Know Where You’re Going To” would have made richly worthy winners.

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The 1976 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“A World That Never Was” from “Half a House”
“Ave Santini” from “The Omen”
“Come to Me” from “The Pink Panther Strikes Again”
“Gonna Fly Now” from “Rocky”
“Evergreen (Love Theme from ‘A Star Is Born’)” from “A Star Is Born”

Won: “Evergreen (Love Theme from ‘A Star Is Born’)” from “A Star Is Born”

Should’ve won: “Gonna Fly Now” from “Rocky”

In 1954, “The Man That Got Away” from “A Star Is Born” found itself robbed in Best Original Song by “Three Coins in the Fountain” from that eponymous film.

The second “A Star Is Born” remake, the soapy and decidedly inferior 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, managed to achieve what the Judy Garland-James Mason vehicle couldn’t by scoring this victory. The difference in quality between “The Man That Got Away” and the winning track, “Evergreen,” could not, however, be more stark.

For while the Garland number was a true powerhouse, finding its performer at the very top of her game, not only in simply singing the song but also acting out the performance, the Streisand-Kristofferson record is a emblematic of the lukewarm adult contemporary music that flooded the airwaves around this time. It’s not a flat-out bad song, certainly not on the level of one of the Maureen McGovern winners, but still syrupy and undistinguished. It’s not even a prime showcase of Streisand’s typically magnificent vocal chords.

So no, “Evergreen,” which scored Oscars for both Streisand (the first female composer so honored) and lyricist Paul Williams, did not deserve to triumph here, certainly not against one of the all-time great movie themes, Bill Conti‘s “Gonna Fly Now” from the Best Picture-winning Sylvester Stallone smash “Rocky.”

With sparse yet perfect lyrics by Carol Connors, perhaps best-known as the lead singer of the 1960s pop group The Teddy Bears, “Gonna Fly Now” sends the John G. Avildsen picture soaring in its memorable training sequence. While “Rocky” now looks and feels a tad dated in spots, its music is truly timeless.

As for the remaining three nominees, “Ave Santini,” the theme from the Gregory Peck-Lee Remick horror film “The Omen,” is reasonably eerie stuff, but not quite on the same level as “Tubular Bells” from “The Exorcist” (1973) or even Lalo Schifrin‘s underrated (and also Oscar-nominated) theme from “The Amityville Horror” (1979). Henry Mancini‘s “Come to Me,” from “The Pink Panther Strikes Again,” is a listenable Tom Jones tune but definitely not among the more memorable Mancini pieces. The final nominee, “A World That Never Was,” from the obscure “Half a House,” marked the final Oscar appearance by the Paul Francis Webster-Sammy Fain team, who scored prizes in this category for “Secret Love” and “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.” Much like the Streisand and Jones tracks, it’s a middle-of-the-road soft rock piece.

In terms of snubbed songs this year, there are two big ones – Rose Royce‘s delightful “Car Wash,” from the eponymous film, and Aretha Franklin‘s exquisite “Something He Can Feel,” the Curtis Mayfield-composed record written for the not-so-exquisite Irene Cara vehicle “Sparkle.”

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. “Days of Wine and Roses” from “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962)
23. “For All We Know” from “Lovers and Other Strangers” (1970)
24. “All the Way” from “The Joker Is Wild” (1957)
25. “It Might As Well Be Spring” from “State Fair” (1945)
26. “The Last Time I Saw Paris” from “Lady Be Good” (1941)
27. “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” from “Here Comes the Groom” (1951)
28. “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” from “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” (1955)
29. “Born Free” from “Born Free” (1966)
30. “Never on Sunday” from “Never on Sunday” (1960)
31. “Three Coins in the Fountain” from “Three Coins in the Fountain” (1954)
32. “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from “Mary Poppins” (1964)
33. “Call Me Irresponsible” from “Papa’s Delicate Condition” (1963)
34. “Evergreen (Theme from ‘A Star Is Born’)” from “A Star Is Born” (1976)
35. “Swinging on a Star” from “Going My Way” (1944)
36. “Gigi” from “Gigi” (1958)
37. “Sweet Leilani” from “Waikiki Wedding” (1937)
38. “The Continental” from “The Gay Divorcee” (1934)
39. “Buttons and Bows” from “The Paleface” (1948)
40. “Talk to the Animals” from “Doctor Dolittle” (1967)
41. “The Shadow of Your Smile” from “The Sandpiper” (1965)
42. “The Morning After” from “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972)
43. “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

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