Composers, songwriters, singers, and performers will often create music for a film. This is something I had never thought about before at length–even though I knew that Phil Collins composed the entire soundtrack for Tarzan. How did the wires in my brain not connect that this was so common?
Besides the Disney movies that I grew up with, like The Lion King or Aladdin, I had not really thought about how original movie scores could be written and used for that purpose: an original song for a movie. I’ve never really been an award show gal and I was raised without TV, so even though the Oscars honor Best Original Score and Best Original Song, for all I was concerned, Phil Collins wrote “You’ll Be in My Heart (Phil Version)” for me to loudly belt in my first car at 16.
I spent an afternoon exploring and digging up covers of songs originally created for movies, and I made a list to share with you now. Why? Because it’s fun. Also, I’m a GenZ kid, so many of my references are to movies from my time–older and newer Disney movies and The Muppets…which still hold a special place in my heart!
Let me explain how I got here. I started thinking about original music for films is because I am a huge Frank Ocean fan, and I truly had not put it together that his cover of “Moon River” was from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I watched the film when I was younger, but just seriously didn’t put together that Frank Ocean’s version was a cover. I pulled up YouTube to search the song and found the original Audrey Hepburn version and was reminded how beautiful the original is. Then I turned on the one-hour “Moon River” Frank version and was sent down a total rabbit hole. (I’m okay though, I promise.) But I had to know–what other popular songs were originally written for movies that I didn’t know about? Do they have weird, fun, or popular covers of them too?
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” (made popular again from the Spider-Man films with Tobey Maguire) was written for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which was released in 1969. It was written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach and was performed by BJ Thomas. It’s an incredibly fun and classic song! I think I have to mention that Kids Bop did a rendition of the song–and I think they deserve an honorary mention.
Dionne Warwick released a rendition of the song in 1970. It debuted on her album I’ll Never Fall in Love Again, which won the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1971. On a sillier note, David Hasselhoff also released a cover of it. This makes me laugh because I think I only know of David Hasselhoff from The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie.
Next up, is the song “The Windmills of Your Mind,” from The Thomas Crown Affair released in 1968. The song was originally composed by Michel Legrand with English lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. It was performed by Noel Harrison, who funny enough, was a part of the British Olympic skiing team in the 1950s. There have been tons of covers of this song, including renditions by Dusty Springfield and Barbara Streisand. Although, my favorite cover is definitely the Muppets cover, released on episode 201 of The Muppets Show in 1985. The muppet, Screaming Thing, sings the song to explain how he feels calm on the outside but is very anxious on the inside as the song progressively speeds up. I like this version because I think it best personifies the lyrics.
My absolute favorite original song, “Rainbow Connection,” is sung by the one and only, Kermit the Frog. I was blown away by the number of covers of this song. I was also stunned to realize that I have not seen any of The Muppets movies (what have I been doing?) and I learned that Kermit sang this song originally. It has easily become one of my favorite songs of all time. This may be a hot take, but I don’t think any of the covers live up to the original–Kermit has some pipes!
Many artists have felt a connection to this song, but as a die-hard fan of The Chicks, I would have to say that their cover of “Rainbow Connection” is my favorite. Willie Nelson released his cover in 2001 on his 49th studio album, which was nominated for the 2001 Country Album of the Year Grammy Award. Jason Mraz released a cover, which I didn’t know beforehand, but didn’t surprise me.
Gwen Stefani and Sarah McLachlan have both released pretty decent covers–definitely not my favorite renditions though. Weezer and Hayley Williams also did a rendition of this classic song, which I thoroughly enjoyed! Released on the Green Album, famous artists like The Fray, My Morning Jacket, OK Go, and Rachel Yamagata rerecord famous songs from The Muppets as a collection. I was impressed with Weezer and Hayley Williams, but I don’t think Hayley Williams could ever bomb!
I also wanted to include a few songs that didn’t have as many famous covers, but that I thoroughly enjoyed.
“Best That You Can Do (Arthur’s Theme),” performed by Christopher Cross, debuted in 1981 in the film Arthur. The song was originally written by Christopher Cross, Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, and Peter Allen. Fitz and the Tantrums released an amazing cover in 2011. I will say that I actually enjoy their cover more than the original, even though I know that can be a controversial opinion.
Louis Armstrong recorded “We Have All the Time in the World” in 1969 for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The James Bond theme song was different from most and has become a popular love song. The hit was written by John Barry, with lyrics by Hal David. My Bloody Valentine released a cover of the song in 1993. I couldn’t have guessed that one.
“Shallow,” performed by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, was written for the 2018 remake of A Star is Born. I was surprised with Bradley Cooper’s singing voice when the movie premiered!. “Shallow” was written by Lady Gaga, Andrew Wyatt, Anthony Rossomando and Mark Ronson. Kelly Clarkson and Garth Brooks performed a cover of the song on the Kelly Clarkson Show in December of 2020.
To wrap this list up, I wanted to share a cover that just truly cracks me up. Sarah McLachlan recorded the song “When She Loved Me” in 1992 for the Toy Story 2 soundtrack–one of my favorite movies of all time for the record. And which Disney Channel star covered this for Disney Mania 7, you may ask? Bridget Mendler, the star from Good Luck Charlie released this cover in 2010. This was definitely not my favorite rendition, I’ll stick with the Sarah McLachlan version. Honestly, the Disney Mania CD’s were a great marketing tactic, using newer Disney Stars from their TV shows to cover older Disney music from their animated films. Just goes to show that if a Disney star had a role on their channel, they would pass them a microphone and ask them to start recording. This cover truly made me laugh because it’s so strange to me and I wanted to include it.
Thanks for coming along with me on this silly journey that I spent a fun afternoon researching!