On this day in 1987: Taken from the film ‘Dirty Dancing’, the Jennifer Warnes’ duet with Bill Medley ‘(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life’, went to #1 on the U.S. singles chart. The song has won a number of awards, including an Academy Award for Best Original Song, a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, and a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. It would spend one week in the top spot.
The song was composed by Franke Previte, John DeNicola, and Donald Markowitz. Singer-songwriter Previte was the lead singer of the band Franke and the Knockouts. He had success with the song “Sweetheart” in 1981, but by 1986 was without a recording contract. In late 1986 or early 1987, producer and head of Millenium Records, Jimmy Jenner, asked Previte about writing some music for “a little movie called Dirty Dancing”. Previte initially turned the request down because he was still trying to get a record deal, but Jenner was persistent, and got Previte to write several songs for the film, including “Hungry Eyes”, later recorded by singer Eric Carmen, which also became a top 10 hit.
Previte wrote the lyrics, and the music was written by John DeNicola and Don Markowitz. After getting further approval, Previte created a demo of the song, performing on it himself, along with singer Rachele Cappelli. The demo showcased how the harmonies were to be used, employing a “cold open”, or a slow build-up of the song to its finale. This demo wasn’t used in the final cut of the film − the more polished version with Warnes and Medley was. However, because the Warnes/Medley track was not ready by the time the finale was filmed (it was shot first, due to the tight budget), Previte and Capelli’s much lighter and more youthful version was used as a backing track, so that the actors, Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, and the dancers, could have something to dance to (Swayze had later remarked it was his favorite version, even including all the subsequent remakes).
The song was initially intended for Donna Summer and Joe Esposito, but Summer turned it down because she didn’t like the title of the film. Bill Medley was approached by Jimmy Jenner repeatedly over two months to do the recording, but he also turned it down because his daughter McKenna was due to be born, and he had promised his wife he would be there. After the birth of his daughter, Medley was approached again, because Jennifer Warnes had indicated she would record the song if she could do the duet with Medley. Medley then agreed to record the track. With the release of the film it became a worldwide hit, and is one of the most frequently played songs on radio.
A song by Lionel Richie was initially planned to be used as the finale of ‘Dirty Dancing’ but choreographer Kenny Ortega and his assistant Miranda Garrison (who also played Vivian in the film) selected “The Time of My Life” instead.
Here’s a look at the complete Top 20 on the U.S. singles chart from this day back in 1987:
1 2 (I’ve Had) THE TIME OF MY LIFE –•– Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes (RCA)-10 (1) (1 Week at #1)
2 3 HEAVEN IS A PLACE ON EARTH –•– Belinda Carlisle (MCA)-10 (2)
3 1 MONY MONY –•– Billy Idol (Chrysalis)-13 (1)
4 7 SHOULD’VE KNOWN BETTER –•– Richard Marx (Manhattan)-10 (4)
5 10 FAITH –•– George Michael (Columbia)-6 (5)
6 5 BRILLIANT DISGUISE –•– Bruce Springsteen (Columbia)-9 (5)
7 4 I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW –•– Tiffany (MCA)-14 (1)
8 11 WE’LL BE TOGETHER –•– Sting (A&M)-8 (8)
9 9 I’VE BEEN IN LOVE BEFORE –•– Cutting Crew (Virgin)-13 (9)
10 14 SHAKE YOUR LOVE –•– Debbie Gibson (Atlantic)-9 (10)
11 16 IS THIS LOVE –•– Whitesnake (Geffen)-6 (11)
12 12 THE ONE I LOVE –•– R.E.M. (I.R.S.)-11 (12)
13 6 BREAKOUT –•– Swing Out Sister (Mercury)-16 (6)
14 17 DON’T YOU WANT ME –•– Jody Watley (MCA)-9 (14)
15 13 I WON’T FORGET YOU –•– Poison (Enigma)-13 (13)
16 19 SO EMOTIONAL –•– Whitney Houston (Arista)-5 (16)
17 21 CATCH ME (I’m Falling) –•– Pretty Poison (Virgin)-10 (17)
18 18 HOURGLASS –•– Squeeze (A&M)-11 (18)
19 26 GOT MY MIND SET ON YOU –•– George Harrison (Dark Horse)-6 (19)
20 23 VALERIE –•– Steve Winwood (Island)-12 (20)