Back in 1981, when the movie version of E.L. Doctorow's book, Ragtime, was released, Randy Newman wrote one of his best scores, and one one of my favorite movie scores, period. It was nominated for an Oscar, though didn't win -- I think for two reasons. The first is that his music and songs sounded SO incredibly authentic for the period that I wouldn't be surprised if many Academy members thought it was old-time that Newman just arranged. And the second reason is because, his bad luck, it happened to be the same year that Chariots of Fire was released -- and even if the full score of that (while very good) wasn't up to the level of its incredible theme, it was an incredible theme, and probably nothing was going to beat that. It helped define the movie.
Newman also got a second Oscar nomination that year, for Best Song. It was played over the closing credits credits, titled One More Hour and sung by Jennifer Warnes.
I adored the song. Still do. It was so tender, so wistful, so melodic and rich and achingly beautiful. I didn't know if it stood a chance of winning -- I think it deserved to, but it was up against Arthur's Theme (Best You Can Do). It's a charming song and permeates the movie nicely. I don't think it's as good a song as One More Hour -- personal taste and all that -- but Arthur's Theme was an extremely big hit on the radio, and few people knew One More Hour. So, it was a long shot, and Arthur's Theme won.
But I was still looking forward to Oscar night because at least it meant that a massive audience would get to hear the lovely, wonderful One More Hour. And get to appreciate it. And since Jennifer Warnes was a respectable recording artist, it would get its full due.
I remember going to an Oscar party and talking about the song, building it up through the night. (What can I say, it's who I am...) And then, finally, the number got presented.
And that's when the disaster hit and crushed it all. Instead of Jennifer Warnes, they decided to have John Schneider sing it. I think his show The Dukes of Hazzard was still on, and so he was a pretty big TV name. And while he has a professional voice and subsequently has appeared on Broadway, it's utterly wrong for One More Hour. It's BIG, BOOMING and without any texture. And if One More Hour is anything, it's texture -- gentle, thoughtful, delicate texture.
And the arrangement was even worse. There was John Schneider singing One More Hour almost as if it was an one-two-three, one-two-three BIG, BOOMING oom-pah-pah beer hall waltz. It was ghastly. I was mortified. I remember several people turning to me and saying drippingly, but also confused, "That's the song you've been talking about all night??"
Noooo. It wasn't. You couldn't possibly thing that was a Randy Newman song. I explained the problem, but it was still mortifying. And this wonderful song got embedded in the collective minds of several hundred million people around the world that way.
Here's the song. The real, actual, proper, correct song, played over the end credits and sung by Jennifer Warnes. I was hoping to find a video of the John Schneider version for comparison sake, so you could get some perspective, but alas -- or fortunately -- I couldn't track it down.
But this is how it's done, and what should have been on the Oscars. Randy Newman's One More Hour.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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