A couple weeks ago, I wrote an article listing six songs that weren't specifically written for a movie, but are now forever associated with that film. Now it's time to go full circle. Which songs were written for a certain movie, but have since stood apart from the movie on their own merits? I began the last post by listing a few, and I'll include a couple of those here, along with a few others.
By the way, this doesn't mean you can't still associate them backwards to their origin. Last time, you knew that "Johnny B. Goode" actually came from Chuck Berry first, right? Likewise, the theme of this article means you can listen to these songs on their own, without immediately needing to see the movie. Here they are, in no particular order:
Bob Dylan - "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
It may seem hard to believe that such a classic song was ever anything else but a hit from one of Dylan's studio albums, but it was in fact written for a little known 1973 movie called Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. The Western, in which Dylan also had a minor role, was directed by Sam Peckinpah. After editing was complete, the movie was taken out of Peckinpah's hands by production company MGM, heavily re-edited, and then released, where it become a box office bomb. I guess if there's a silver lining to the story, it's that Dylan still made out good on the movie's failure.
Paul McCartney & Wings - "Live and Let Die", Live and Let Die
My anecdote counts for nothing overall, but as someone who doesn't really follow the Bond movies, this one came as something of a surprise to me, as I had always assumed that "Live and Let Die" was just another McCartney album single. However, it was written for the 1973 Bond movie of the same name. Unlike Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, however, Live and Let Die did very well at the box office. The song has long been cited as the first true rock and roll tune used on a Bond flick.
Celine Dion - "My Heart Will Go On", Titanic
This is probably the most depressing song on this list, but that might be because it's associated with a tragedy like the Titanic sinking. Yet, "My Heart Will Go On" is a perennial top-played song that continues to receive much airtime on the radio, as well as having been adopted as the theme song of all romantic relationships everywhere. Whatever works, I suppose.
Simple Minds - "Don't You (Forget About Me)", The Breakfast Club
The theme of John Hughes' 1985 coming-of-age film The Breakfast Club, it has continued to receive much radio play under certain formats. Despite its reception by the music listening audience, apparently its creator, the band Simple Minds, were and are still are not big fans of the song. The band has since pretty much disowned it, unlike fans of the song, who can't get enough.
Simon and Garfunkel - "Mrs. Robinson", The Graduate
This one's a little different than the others, because it actually did begin as an album song for S&G's 1968 penultimate record Bookends. However, The Graduate director Mike Nichols convinced Paul Simon to use an incomplete version of the song for the film. The fully complete, more popular version of "Mrs. Robinson" later appeared on Bookends, but the movie gave audiences an early taste of what was in store for them with the album song when it was released a few months after the movie.
Bill Conti - "Gonna Fly Now", Rocky
Played during the sequence where Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa does his training regimen, ending with that fist-pumping shot of him atop the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, "Gonna Fly Now" has since become the theme for any and every sports-related event since then. Not looking forward to going to the gym after work? Put on "Gonna Fly Now" and all your excuses for missing a day go out the window. Not looking forward to that seven-mile uphill run tomorrow morning? Put on "Gonna Fly Now," and you'll be done with it in no time. This song is pretty much the textbook example of one that become much bigger than the movie and was, in fact, my inspiration for this and the previous post in this series. See? It really works!
BONUS - Adele - "Skyfall", Skyfall
This one hasn't had enough time to simmer with music-listening audiences, given that it was only released in October. That said, it was huge immediately upon release. Although the song is irrevocably intertwined with the classic Bond theme, there is enough that is original to let it stand on its own as a song that can be remembered 40 years from now, where you won't even need to know anything about the film.