Footloose Soundtrack: A Hit Album with #1 Hits “Footloose” and “Let’s Hear it for the Boy”
When the motion picture Footloose was released in 1984, famed film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it “a seriously confused movie that tries to do three things and does them all badly”. Ebert did not connect with the film, but the movie-going public certainly did. Footloose was a phenomenal hit, grossing more than $80 million in America alone, against a budget of only $8.2 million. Songs from the Footloose soundtrack dominated the airwaves and the album sold more than 10 million units.
The first single from the soundtrack was the title song “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins, and it quickly shot up to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. The second single was the joyfully irresistible “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” vivaciously performed by Deniece Williams. Following the success of Loggins’s title track, “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” also held the #1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1984, and topped the Billboard R&B chart, the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. It was a #1 single in Canada and peaked at #2 in New Zealand, Ireland, and the U.K.
The Footloose soundtrack dethroned Michael Jackson’s blockbuster LP ‘Thriller” at #1 and stayed at the top of the Billboard Album chart for 10 consecutive weeks in 1984.
Dean Pitchford Collaborates with Tom Snow for Soundtrack Perfection
Virtually everything related to Footloose originated with Academy Award winner Dean Pitchford, the mastermind behind the screenplay, and the music for the movie. Dean started in the entertainment business as an actor in the Broadway musical Godspell in 1971 and ambitiously achieved virtuoso status as a songwriter, screenwriter, and director. Pitchford partnered with esteemed songwriter Tom Snow to compose music for the Footloose soundtrack. Snow, too, was no slouch, with an incredible resume of success, writing songs for music’s biggest names- Barbara Streisand, Barry Manilow, Linda Ronstadt, Olivia Newton-John, Diana Ross, Cher, and Christina Aguilera, among others.
Originally, the music for the scene in Footloose where Kevin Bacon’s character (Ren McCormack) is teaching Christopher Penn’s clumsy character (Willard Hewitt) how to dance was going to be a mid-tempo tune called “Somebody’s Eyes” sang by Karla Bonoff, but the film’s director, Herbert Ross, felt the scene needed more of an uplifting- celebratory song, which led Pitchford and Snow to come up with “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” and the perfect song was placed for one of the most iconic sequences in the movie.
Deniece Williams went uptempo for “Let’s Hear it for the Boy”
Pitchford and Snow really wanted Deniece Williams to sing “Let’s Hear it for the Boy”. Deniece was on board, but she had to convince her producer, the great George Duke, to give his blessing. Deniece’s manager received a call to see if she was interested in singing the song for the Footloose motion picture soundtrack. Pitchford and Snow had room for one more song and offered the slot to Deniece. Williams and Duke went over to Tom Snow’s house to hear the demo of “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” and were given a cassette tape copy of the song to take with them for further review.
On the ride from Snow’s home, Deniece expressed her desire to accept the offer to sing “Let’s Hear it for the Boy.” But George was adamantly against it because it was an up-tempo song, seemingly out of Deniece’s wheelhouse. Williams had a stellar reputation as a balladeer, but she wanted to break away from being pigeonholed, and show the world that she could do an up-tempo dance number like “Let’s Hear it for the Boy.” Duke relented and agreed to produce the song, and into the studio they went. Deniece was able to showcase her incredible range near the end of “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” hitting high notes that few vocalists can reach.
“Let’s Hear it for the Boy” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and sold over a million units, receiving platinum certification by the RIAA. The husband and wife team of George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam provided the background vocals for the recording. Merrill and Rubicam wrote several number-one hits for Whitney Houston, “How Will I Know” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and formed the group Boy Meets Girl in 1985 releasing the #5 pop smash “Waiting for a Star to Fall” in 1988.
Deniece Williams’ own Upbringing mirrored Footloose Plot
Deniece was thrilled with the song’s placement in the film, confiding that if she had seen the movie without music, and had her choice of where “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” was used, she would have requested that very scene. It is her favorite part of the movie.
Williams grew up in a very conservative, religious background, so she could relate to the strict secular nature of the Footloose storyline.
Deniece remembers battling old-fashioned mores when she was a teenager. “I joined the high-school band, but because the band uniform included pants, the church I attended told me and my mother that I needed to quit the band because, according to their rules, women were not allowed to wear pants” Williams related. The parochial mentality of her hometown was similar to the fictitious Bible-Belt-like town of Bomont, Utah portrayed in the movie, that enforced a “no dancing” charter destined to be abolished by the film’s protagonist, played by Kevin Bacon.
“Let’s Hear it for the Boy”: Another Hit in Deniece Williams Successful Career
“Let’s Hear it for the Boy” was Deniece’s second #1 pop hit, and her second #1 R&B track, the first being “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” a duet with Johnny Mathis in 1978. She would work with the legendary Mathis later in the 80s when the duo teamed up once again to sing “Without Us” the theme for the hit TV sitcom Family Ties– starring Michael J. Fox that ran for seven seasons from 1982 to 1989.