Monday, May 2, 2011

Forgotten Movie Songs #8: "Moondust" from MEATBALLS

In the late 70s and way into the 80s, composer Elmer Bernstein was the comedy filmmaker's go-to guy. The legendary composer had been providing music for movies and television since the early 50s, and most of the titles were serious affairs like The Tin Star, Sweet Smell of Success, Walk on the Wild Side, The Magnificent Seven, To Kill A Mockingbird, Summer and Smoke, Hud, Birdman of Alcatraz and 1969's True Grit. But, in 1978, he delivered a particularly witty score to the smash hit National Lampoon's Animal House. Since the maker of that film--John Landis--pretty much owned American comedy cinema
after 1978, Bernstein was tapped again to provide scores for Landis' subsequent films Trading Places, An American Werewolf in London, Spies Like Us, Three Amigos! and The Blues Brothers. And other comedy voices requested Bernstein's services as well: he did both Airplane! movies for Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker, and formed a fruitful partnership with Canadian producer/director Ivan Reitman.

Reitman had produced Animal House, so I suppose you could posit that he's perhaps a more important figure regarding this shift in Bernstein's career. Every time a Reitman movie popped up--Ghostbusters, Legal Eagles, or Stripes, to name only a few--you could bet that Bernstein would be there to write both songs and an underscore for the movies. This was certainly also so for Reitman's 1979 comedy Meatballs, starring a young Saturday Night Live veteran named Bill Murray in his film debut. This messy, raucous but ultimately sweet, very Canadian movie about one summer at the somewhat mismanaged Camp North Star featured the loosey-goosey Murray heading a cast of young unknowns playing both kids and counselors (only the lead kid, played by Chris Makepeace, went on to do anything significant--he was the star of Tony Bill's excellent 1980 tween-comedy My Bodyguard).


Meatballs still holds a place in my heart as perhaps the most sentimental of all the Bernstein-scored comedies. God knows I like me some sentiment, if it's used correctly. One of my favorite moments in the film has Murray taking all the camp counselors out for a night away from their young charges, where they can "smoke and drink and fool around" by the light of an island campfire. Bernstein contributed a few songs to the film (including the rabblerousing, kid-chorused "Are You Ready For The Summer?"), but the song he and his well-seasoned lyricist Norman Gimbel chose to accompany this romantic interlude was the perfectly gentle "Moondust." Sung in a Charlie Rich-like baritone by Canadian vocalist Terry Black, it coaxes the kind of tears you might get while experiencing what you're sure is one of your life's happiest moments. This tune radiates love and friendship. On the Meatballs soundtrack, it's understandably reprised again at the end of the film, when everyone's saying bittersweet goodbyes at summer's end. It's an affecting lullaby--obviously influenced by Johnny Mercer's "Stardust"--and certainly lovely enough to make this list of movie songs that need more recognition.

It's called "Moondust." Music by Elmer Bernstein, lyrics by Norman Gimbel, and performed by Terry Black:



Let’s say it was the moondust
That drifted down from heaven
To fall upon your shoulders
And nestle in your eyes

Let’s say it was the moondust
With all its ancient powers
Much more than any mortal
Ever could devise

And it made me love you
And it made me never want to go away
And it made me helpless
And it made me always wanna stay that way

Let’s say it was the moondust
That hides behind the moonlight
That fell and set us free
With its moondust melody

And it made me love you
And it made me never want to go away
And it made me helpless
And it made me always wanna stay that way

Let’s say it was the moondust
That hides behind the moonlight
That fell and set us free
With its moondust melody
And set us free
With its moondust melody

12 comments:

shane013a said...

Thank you for turning me on to something I would have otherwise never considered watching. The song was so sweet I posted it on FB. The slower version. This was a nice introduction to your site for me Dean.

Dean Treadway said...

My pleasure, Shane. That's what I'm here for!

Henrik Bruhn said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH DEAN! I have had this tune in my head for the past 20 years or so, but I could not remember the lyrics or exactly how it went (I always thought it was "Lets say it was the moonlight"). Thanks to you I finally have peace of mind.

Dean Treadway said...

It's a beautiful, and unforgettable song, and I'm so happy I could help you remember it in full, Henrik!

Stephanie Hawkins said...

oh THANK YOU SO MUCH! I watched Meatballs last night (it has been over 20 yrs since I had seen it) and as soon as I heard that song it almost brought me to tears. I always loved that song so much. I had to google it and hear it from beginning to end and found your page. Thank you so much what a lovely gift :)

Bobby Dulin said...

Love the movie and the song thanks Dean for sharing. tried buying online but no one seems to have it thanks again

Rocky Neely said...

I can't help but love this old tune. I'm sure I didn't think anything of it 25 years ago, but now I really like it in the scene of the movie, because I think it is a poignant moment and though a little short it’s perfect. The version of this song I found on Youtube was horrible. Thank you so much for posting this song as it was meant to be.

Magpie said...

Nice! Very Nice!

Anonymous said...

Awesome. Thanks for sharing; Jesus Christ Bless! ;)

Unknown said...

How does one purchase a copy of this beautiful song? I have exhausted all searches and there is no movie soundtrack cd.

Dean Treadway said...

Here's a gy offering a CD-R of the original vinyl: http://www.ioffer.com/i/meatballs-soundtrack-cd-pls-read-elmer-bernstein-9563732

Elaine Hosea said...

I just love this song. I saw Meatballs as a kid when it was first released and it has been my all-time favorite movie ever and every time this song comes on in the movie I always, always am affected. It fits the scenes perfectly and it makes you nostalgic for a time of innocence and the special magical days of summer.