The sporting and music worlds have always had a strong connection.
As far back as the 1930’s, ballparks employed organists to play music before and during games.
By the 1970’s, in addition to the organ, pop and rock records were played
over public-address systems and crowds started singing along.
In the 90’s, among the audience favorites were
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS and WE WILL ROCK YOU by Queen,
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN by Europe, The Ramones’ BLITZKRIEG BOP,
Steam’s NA NA HEY HEY KISS HIMGOODBYE, the Guns N’ Roses staple WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE,
WHOOP! (THERE IT IS) by Tag Team, YMCA by Village People and ROCK ‘N’ ROLL Part 2 by Gary Glitter.
Beginning in ’95, Tommy Boy Records issued a hugely successful series of compilation CD’s
of such stadium-friendly records. They called them ‘Jock Jams’ and linked some of the songs
with ESPN sportscasters revving up the audience with chants and rhythmic sayings.
The CD’s were described on the actual artwork as
‘The hottest crowd-pumpin’ grooves of all time!’.
Specific popular songs were occasionally embraced by individual teams as their own rousing anthems.
For example, AIN’T NO STOPPIN’ US NOW (Gene McFadden/John Whitehead/Jerry Cohen) was
adopted by the Philadelphia Eagles, Neil Diamond’s SWEET CAROLINE was endorsed as the
Boston Red Sox signature theme, the 1920’s tune SWEET GEORGIA BROWN
(Ben Bernie/Kenneth Casey/Maceo Pinkard) was adopted by basketball’s
Harlem Globetrotters and the showstopping ballad YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE
(Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II) from the musical “Carousel” became
the singalong theme of the Liverpool Football Club in England.
The most unusual example of a piece of music becoming strongly identified
with contemporary sporting events but originating from a very different source
occurred in the late 1990’s…
Randy Edelman’s majestic Theme from the 1993 short-lived TV western series
THE ADVENTURES OF BRISCO COUNTRY Jr. was chosen by NBC for
its coverage of the 1997 Olympics and it’s now become recognized
as a regularly-used Olympic melody.
Listen to it here:
In the 1930’s, comedy duo Bud Abbott & Lou Costello developed
a routine about the names of famous baseball players.
It became widely popular over the years and they performed it hundreds of times;
Here are Bud & Lou presenting the routine in their 1945 Universal movie “The Naughty Nineties”…
America’s love of baseball has created many songs over the decades including the 1869 tune
HURRAH FOR OUR NATIONAL GAME and then in 1908 came TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME
which was sung by the crowds at actual games and became baseball’s unofficial anthem.
Over in England, football is a national obsession and it’s been celebrated
in a host of songs some of which were successfully recorded by groups of actual team players;
WORLD IN MOTION and OLE OLA (see below) were among the biggest sellers plus others
such as BACK HOME, GOOD OLD ARSENAL BLUE IS THE COLOUR,
TOTTENHAM TOTTENHAM and LEEDS UNITED.
In addition, check out THREE LIONS in my list below which topped the UK charts twice,
first in ’96 and then with an updated version two years later.
Sports and the wide range of competitive games
have long inspired a zillion songs and here is a random selection…
AMAZIN’ WILLIE MAYS
(Sam Florman/Henry Engel)
by The King Odom Quartette
ANYONE FOR TENNIS
(Eric Clapton/Martin Sharp)
Pro: Felix Pappalardi
Theme from “The Savage Seven”
(American International: 1968)
(Paul Richey/Jerry Taylor/Billy Sherrill)
by Johnny Cash
Pro: Billy Sherrill(
The Baron of the title was a pool player.
(William Waring/Kurtis Blow/Robert Ford Jr./
J.B. Moore/James Bralower/Full Force)
by Kurtis Blow
Pro: J.B. Moore & Robert Ford Jr.
BASKETBALL JONES FEATURING TYRONE SHOELACES
(Cheech Marin/Tommy Chong)
by Cheech & Chong
Pro: Lou Adler
A Queen-Roy Thomas Baker Production
by Simon & Garfunkel
Pro: Simon, Garfunkel & Halee
Another sport-reference appears in Simon & Garfunkel’s
previous hit MRS. ROBINSON with the line
“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?”.
BRAND NEW KEY
Pro: Peter Schekeryk
She famously refers to her
brand new pair of roller skates.
by John Fogerty
Arr & Pro: John Fogerty
(Warner Bros: 1985
by Charley Pride
Pro: Jerry Bradley & Charley Pride
DID YOU SEE JACKIE ROBINSON HIT THAT BALL?
by Buddy Johnson & His Orchestra
Vocal: Ella Johnson
(Jane Bowers/Irving Burgess)
by The Kingston Trio
Pro: Voyle Gilmore
(Trad. Arr: Robin Hall/Jimmie MacGregor)
by Robin Hall & Jimmy MacGregor
(UK Decca: 1960)
Hall & MacGregor were a Scottish folk duo
who introduced this song on a BBC Television show
and it became a regular favorite on radio
request programs in the early sixties.
HERE COME THE YANKEES
(Lou Stallman/Bob Bundin)
by Sid Bass & His Orchestra & Chorus
Pro: Jerry Teifer (Columbia: 1967)
Tune is still played on radio broadcasts
of New York Yankees games.
JOLTIN’ JOE DiMAGGIO
(Alan Courtney/Ben Homer)
by Les Brown & His Orchestra
Vocal: Betty Bonney
THE KID’S LAST FIGHT
by Frankie Laine
KUNG FU FIGHTING
by Carl Douglas
(20th Century: 1974)
London-based Jamaican singer Carl Douglas
topped the charts both here and in Britain
with his song spurred on partly by the popularity
of Bruce Lee and the kung fu artform.
THE LAST GAME OF THE SEASON
(A Blind Man In The Bleachers)
by David Geddes
Pro: Paul Vance
Arr: Joe Renzetti
(Big Tree: 1975)
(LOVE IS LIKE A) BASEBALL GAME
(Kenny Gamble/Leon Huff)
by The Intruders
A Gamble-Huff Production
MY DADDY WAS A JOCKEY
(John Lee Hooker)
by John Lee Hooker
Arr: Rod Stewart & Phil Chen)
by Rod Stewart
The Scottish World Cup Football Club Squad.
(Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil)
by Sergio Mendes
Vocal: Joe Pizzulo
Pro: Barry Mann & Sergio Mendes
ONE ON ONE
by Daryl Hall & John Oates
Pro: Daryl Hall & John Oates
Co-Pro: Neil Kernon
‘I want to play that game tonight’.
ROLLER DERBY QUEEN
by Jim Croce
Pro: Terry Cashman & Tommy West
SKATE TO THE RHYTHM
(Tommy Gordy/Geraldine Gordon/Michael Torrence)
by High Energy
Pro: Tommy Gordy
(Lloyd Price/Harold Logan)
by Lloyd Price
Pro: Don Costa
The finest song about gambling
by The Beach Boys
Pro: Nick Venet
This was just one of a whole slew of songs
celebrating surf and the surf music culture.
I explored surf songs in greater depth
in my blog “Catching A Wave Again”
THERE USED TO BE A BALLPARK
by Frank Sinatra
Pro: Don Costa
Orch Cond: Gordon Jenkins
(David Baddiel/Frank Skinner/Ian Broudie)
by Baddiel & Skinner & TheLightning Seeds
(UK Epic: 1996)
Reaching UK #1 in June ’96,
this was the official song of the
England Football Team performed by Liverpool singer/songwriter Ian Broudie, his group
The Lightning Seeds along with comedians
David Baddiel & Frank Skinner.
VICTORY TEST MATCH - CALYPSO
by Lord Beginner & The Calypso Rhythm Kings
Pro: Denis Preston
(UK Melodisc: 1950)
Recorded after the West Indies beat England
at Lord's Cricket Ground in London,
it’s remembered for its opening lyric
'Cricket Lovely Cricket')
WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS
(Bunny Sigler/Kim Miller/
Scottie Miller/Raymond Earl)
by Instant Funk
Pro: Bunny Sigler
WILLIE, MICKEY AND ‘THE DUKE’ (Talkin’ Baseball)
by Terry Cashman
A salute to Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle
and Duke Snider
by Dennis ‘Terry Cashman’ Minogue
of the pop trio Cashman, Pistilli & West.
WORLD IN MOTION
(New Order/Keith Allen)
(UK Factory: 1990)
Chart-topping UK single by the footballing
England World Cup Squad together with
techno-dance group New Order.
The Squad had previously notched up
other major UK hit songs.
YOU CAN’T ROLLER SKATE IN A BUFFALO HERD
by Roger Miller
YOU GOTTA BE A FOOTBALL HERO
(To Get Along With The Beautiful Girls)
(Al Lewis/Al Sherman/Buddy Fields)
by Ben Bernie & All The Lads
Vocals: Ben Bernie & Manny Prager
Here are a few examples of works written specifically for motion pictures…
THE BINGO LONG SONG (Steal On Home)
(Berry Gordy/Ron Miller)
by Thelma Houston
Pro: William Goldstein & Ron Miller
Arr: William Goldstein
from ‘The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings”
CHARIOTS OF FIRE
Arr & Pro: Vangelis
from “Chariots Of Fire”
(20th Century Fox: 1981)
EYE OF THE TIGER
(Jim Peterik/Frankie Sullivan)
Pro: Jim Peterik & Frankie Sullivan (Scotti Brothers: 1982)
from “Rocky III”
(United Artists: 1982)
GONNA FLY NOW
(Bill Conti/Carol Connors/Ayn Robbins)
by Bill Conti
Pro, Cond & Orch: Bill Conti
Eng: Ami Hadani
(United Artists: 1977)
(United Artists: 1976)
IT HAPPENED IN SUN VALLEY
(Mack Gordon/Harry Warren)
by Glenn Miller & His Orchestra
Vocals: Paula Kelly, Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke & The Modernaires
from “Sun Valley Serenade”
(20th Century Fox: 1941).
‘Everybody ought to learn to ski’
(Paul Jabara/Bruce Roberts-Paul Jabara/Bob Esty)
by Barbra Streisand
Pro, Arr & Cond: Bob Esty
from “The Main Event”
(First Artists: 1979)
In addition, key existing songs were featured in later sport-themed movies
such as AC/DC’s THUNDERSTRUCK from 1990 which was used on the soundtrack of
“The Longest Yard” in 2005 and John Fogerty’s 1985 hit CENTERFIELD was a perfect fit for
“Bull Durham” three years later.
SPORTING STARS ON RECORD:
Back in 1949, baseball legend Joe Di Maggio was heard on a 2-record set
of the children’s story LITTLE JOHNNY STRIKEOUT and over the years, a string of other
sports personalities tried their luck in front of the microphone of commercial music or spoken-word records.
Even today, stars such as Kobe Bryant (with Tyra Banks),
Serena Williams and Jacques Villeneuve have released records.
Here are some further examples…
BREAK IT UP
(Fred Bekky/Cris Lennarth/J. Dagleth)
by Carl Lewis
European dance hit by Olympic track star Carl Lewis.
by Glenn & Chris
(UK Record Shack: 1987)
A UK one-hit wonder success by British footballers
Glenn Hoddle & Chris Waddle.
HEAD OVER HEELS IN LOVE
(Chris Norman/Pete Spencer)
by Kevin Keegan
(UK EMI: 1979)
Top 40 UK hit by British footballer Kevin Keegan.
I AM THE GREATEST
(Gary Belkin/Peter Metz/Cassius Clay)
by Cassius Clay (aka Muhammad Ali)
Flipside was Clay’s cover of STAND BY ME.
(I KNOW I GOT) SKILLZ
(Jeff Fortson/Meech Wells/Shaquille O’Neal)
by Shaquille O’Neal Feat. Def Jam
The first of a string of successful singles by the NBA basketball star.
I LOVE MICKEY
(Teresa Brewer/Ruth Roberts/William Katz)
by Teresa Brewer and the voice of Mickey Mantle
The baseball superstar in the studio with singer Teresa Brewer.
(Eugene Nwohia/Raymond Calhoun/Ronnie Nwohia)
by Andy Cole
(UK WEA: 1999)
Minor seller by Manchester United footballer Andy Cole.
RUN TO ME
(Barry Gibb/Robin Gibb/Maurice Gibb)
by Oscar De La Hoya
(EMI Latin: 2000)
Boxer Oscar De La Hoya revived a Bee Gees song.
SAY HEY (The Willie Mays Song)
(Richard Kleiner/Douglass White/Theodore Wormer)
Willie Mays & The Treniers
THAT WAS THEN
(Hassan McMillan/Michael Flowers/Jerome Hunter/Roy Jones Jr.)
by Roy Jones Jr. Feat. Dave Hollister, Perion & Hahz The Rippa
(Body Head/EMI: 2001)
Minor R&B seller by boxing champion Roy Jones Jr.
WABASH CANNON BALL
by Dizzy Dean & His Country Cousins
Baseball luminary Dizzy Dean who was referenced by
Bud Abbott in Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s On First” routine.
WALK ON FAITH
(Mike Reid/Allen Shamblin)
by Mike Reid
Pro: Steve Buckingham
A Country #1 single in ’91
by Cincinatti Bengals football player Mike Reid.
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