Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Of course, I'm watching the Olympics...

I've been watching the Olympics a fair amount this week. although I have to admit that I like the Winter Games more than I enjoy the Summer Games.

Having said that, however, I will say that I enjoy watching diving. That's what's on as I write this, and I have to give NBC credit for showing the finals of the women's synchronized platform diving in prime time even though the US team did not qualify for the finals. I've always thought that US coverage of the Games focuses entirely too much on US athletes, leaning toward only showing, especially in prime time, events in which US athletes are believed to have a good chance to win medals.

I also enjoy watching gymnastics, although I don't have any interest in what they call rhythmic gymnastics (the women's routines that use ribbons and hoops and so forth as props). I like volleyball, too, mostly because I played volleyball on a church league when I was a senior in high school. It amazes me how different indoor volleyball is from beach volleyball, but I like watching both. Swimming is fun to watch, as well, although I'm not quite sure why I like it. You can't really see anything but flailing arms and splashing.

I have no use, however, for the track and field events. Running and jumping and flinging things just does not interest me. Well, the pole vault fascinates me in a sort of perverse way, because I just can't understand why anyone would do that. I certainly would never launch myself all those feet off the ground on what looks like an excessively flimsy fiberglass pole. I'm just surprised that those poles don't break more often.

Water polo doesn't do anything for me, either.

The sport I'd like to see more of is synchronized swimming. I know. It's a weird sport. And those nose-clips they wear make them look like they've all had the same unfortunate nose job. But I've always been clumsy in the water, and it fascinates me that those groups of swimmers can look so graceful doing what they do.

My favorite parts of the Games? The opening and closing ceremonies. I'm not going to contribute here to the criticism of NBC's coverage of the Opening Ceremonies this year (I did enough of that on Friday night, other places online, while I was watching), except to say that the commentary and editing nearly ruined the experience for me. I really, really want to see a recording of the BBC's coverage. I've heard that it was much superior.

I will say that what we got of the entertainment portion of the Opening Ceremonies in the US coverage impressed me and entertained me. I loved the Queen, Daniel Craig, and the corgis. That was fabulous, and I feel a great deal of affection for the Queen for agreeing to be a part of that. On the other hand, who could possibly turn down the chance to be a Bond Girl to Craig's 007? I certainly wouldn't. I loved the music that was chosen (and I did catch the sound of Doctor Who's TARDIS at the end the portion of the music segment featuring Queen). And, I loved seeing Paul McCartney performing "Hey, Jude". I was sorry to see so much criticism of his singing, since it was obvious to me that it was a result of his feeling the emotion of the moment. I've heard the emotion-choked voices of individuals trying to sing before, and that is exactly what that sounds like.

And the fireworks. The fireworks were spectacular, even on television. I don't usually enjoy watching fireworks on TV, but I enjoyed those.

The games have just begun, with almost two weeks of events left to go before the Closing Ceremonies on August 12. I'm hoping for exciting competition, no off-the-field drama (although there has already been one incident of some people throwing around accusations of doping, involving a Chinese swimmer), and a little better coverage from NBC than they've provided so far.

I will be watching.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Music Sunday: "Sunday Morning Coming Down" Edition

I don't like Sundays any more.

I used to like Sundays when I was a child. Sunday was outing day. My family went on some kind of outing nearly every Sunday, even on days when my father had to work. Many times, we would just go for a ride somewhere, to see what we could see. Other Sundays, we would go to a museum, or to Griffith Park Observatory, or to Disneyland (back in the days when it didn't cost an arm and both legs to get in).

Gasoline costs too much to do that now, and I miss those outings a lot. With my arthritis, it is even difficult for me to get out and take a long walk on a Sunday. That was something we used to do as a family on Sundays, as well, sometimes just walking around town for two or three or four hours.

Not being able to have those Sunday outings any more puts me out of sorts sometimes. This is one of those Sundays, and so it has been difficult for me to get into the mood to write the usual Music Sunday blog post. There just wasn't any music that I wanted to hear. I even asked for recommendations from friends. And I got some good recommendations. Just nothing that moved me enough to share with you all.

And then I remembered "Sunday Morning Coming Down". Written by Kris Kristofferson, it was first recorded in 1969 by Ray Stevens. Kristofferson has also recorded it, as did Johnny Cash. I like this cover, which I just discovered, by Trace Adkins:

And here is Kristofferson and Cash singing the song, in 1978:

Not an upbeat song, to be sure, but it made my Sunday a little more bearable. I hope your Sunday was better, wherever you are.

Just a note: I've seen this song identified both as "Sunday Morning Coming Down" and "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down". I have no idea which is correct.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Music Sunday: Music Plus Book Review Edition

I grew up listening to rock music. I also spent a lot of that time reading the writing of Robert Hilburn, the legendary music critic for the Los Angeles Times. So, when I discovered that Hilburn had written a memoir, Corn Flakes with John Lennon and Other Tales From a Rock’n’Roll Life (Rodale, 2009; 280 pages), I had to read it.

I’m glad I did.

Hilburn, who wrote his first story as a freelancer for the Times in 1966 and was hired as full-time pop music critic and editor in 1970, is a fabulous writer. He spent his career at one of the epicenters of the music industry, and he writes about his adventures with grace and wit and a great deal of insight. As part of his job, he met and interviewed and reviewed the biggest and most legendary names in music, and became friends with not a few of them. These friendships did not stop Hilburn from calling these performers on the missteps in their recordings and in performance, although he writes about being worried that his relationships with these artists could be seen as a conflict or interest or result in bias toward them.

Hilburn also writes about his questions concerning continuing to write about music aimed mostly at teenagers and young adults as he aged, addressing his doubts in the context of covering musicians who kept making music, sometimes relevant, sometimes not so much, as they aged. I found this interesting as a person of a certain age who still loves rock music but finds fewer and fewer new artists whose work I can relate to as I get older. Hilburn quotes Paul McCartney on the subject, recalls that at one point Mick Jagger said that he couldn't envision still singing “Satisfaction” at the age of thirty but has continued singing it much longer than that, and celebrates the fact that Johnny Cash’s work remained relevant until the end of his life.

Then there are the stories. Hilburn recalls being the person John Lennon would call to spend an evening with during Lennon's year-and-a-half long “lost weekend”, spent primarily in Los Angeles, when he needed to remain relatively sober to get up for an early meeting the next day. He relates serious and deep discussions he had about the music with Bruce Springsteen. He talks about the difficulties inherent in interviewing people like Bob Dylan and Neil Young. He explores his ability to connect with musicians much younger than himself, such as Kurt Cobain, and from very different backgrounds, such as Ice Cube. He describes hanging out with the members of U2 in and out of the recording studio.

In the course of all this, Hilburn pulls no punches in writing about artists he admires and those he finds, following Bob Dylan’s three categories of musicians, “superficial”, which in Hilburn’s eyes includes some very big name acts and musicians. But Hilburn spends much less time on the superficial than he does on the natural performers and the supernatural performers, Dylan’s two other categories.

I’ll leave you to read the book to discover how various performers Hilburn discusses fit into which category. If you think this is my way of making you read the book rather than giving away the good parts, you’re absolutely correct. Every music lover should read Corn Flakes with John Lennon.

Because it is Music Sunday, I’m going to end this review with three of the artists and performances mentioned by Hilburn in the course of his book.

One of the musicians that Hilburn had a friendship with was Johnny Cash. He calls Cash's cover of "Hurt" "stirring" (p. 194):

Another artist Hilburn has high praise for is Bruce Springsteen, whose "Brilliant Disguise" Hilburn described as "a chilling reflection about commitment" (p. 148):

Hilburn said that U2's album, "The Unforgettable Fire" "confused" him, but he called two of the songs on the album, "Pride (In the Name of Love)" and "Bad", "brilliant" (p. 141). Just last week, I shared the band's performance of "Bad" at Live Aid, so here is "Pride":

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sweet frustrations...

As a compulsive and voracious reader, I get frustrated when I can’t find something to read.

You would probably laugh at that statement if you could see where I’m living. Between my roommate and myself, there must be at least a couple of thousand books in the apartment. I have not come close to reading all of them.

Still, sometimes I find myself wandering from bookshelf to bookshelf, repeating the lament, “But I can’t find anything to read.”

I know. Cue the violins and the weeping.

It sounds stupid, but it is a real problem. While I love to read, there are books – there are whole genres, really – that I’m not that keen to read. And even within the genres of fiction and topics in non-fiction that I do enjoy reading, I’m not in the mood to read all the books all the time. If I’ve read three mysteries in a row, for example, I’d probably want to read something else before I read another mystery.

I’ve had this problem a lot lately, and I go through periods like this from time to time. It gets so that I just can’t find anything I want to read. I suspect that the current troubles are at least partly due to the fact that I’ve been writing a lot, and I don’t want what I’m reading to bleed through into what I’m writing.

I’m not really worried about ideas creeping from my reading into my writing, but more about tone and voice. One time, last year, I was working on something that I was writing in third-person omniscient. Then I started reading a book that was written in the first person. Imagine my surprise (and dismay), when I realized that I’d written the last several thousand words in first-person rather than third.

Sigh. I haven’t gone back to that project yet.

However, I’m not here to complain, but to say that I’ve managed to find myself an embarrassment of riches. I’ve got two books, both out of the library, that are, at least so far, fantastic. They’re both so good that I wish I could read both at the same time. When I sit down to read, it is difficult for me to decide which one I want to spend time with.

(Actually, the main reason I’m writing this rather than reading right now is that, when I sat down intending to read for a while before starting dinner, I couldn't decide which one I wanted to pick up.)

One is fiction, 11/22/63 (Scribner, 2011; 849 pages), by Stephen King. I found this one at the library on Monday, sat down and started reading just to see if I was going to like it – it has gotten good reviews, but I haven’t felt moved to pick up any of King’s work in several years – and found it mesmerizing from the first pages. The other is Corn Flakes with John Lennon and Other Tales from a Rock’n’Roll Life (Rodale, 2009; 280 pages), by rock critic Robert Hilburn, who wrote for the Los Angeles Times for many years. I read Hilburn’s work in the Times for years and I love books on rock music, so when I found it today I could resist picking it up when I went to take some other books (books that looked good, but which ended up not catching my interest when I started to read them) back to the library.

I used to have this problem, having two (or more) good books to read at the same time, a lot. I don’t know if it is because I’ve read many more books by now, or if there just aren’t as many good books coming out now, or that I’m just getting picky in my old age. Whatever the case, I rarely have two good reads in hand at the same time now.

I plan to enjoy this sweet frustration, and hope that this is a sign that it will happen more often.

Because, man, I really do get cranky when I can’t find anything good to read.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Review: "The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To", by D C Pierson

The other day when I was at the library, I picked a book up off the shelf because it had such an improbable title: The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To (2010, Vintage Books/Random House; 226 pages). How was I supposed to resist a title like that?

Maybe that was author D C Pierson's strategy in picking the title. If it was, it was a good approach. It also describes the premise of the book quite well. Eric Lederer is a high school student, one of those who a lot of the rest of the students at his school have pegged as mostly likely to shoot the school up. He's a loner, a geek who is probably a little too intelligent for his own good. He just doesn't fit in. But, one day he approaches Darren Bennett, another student, the become fast friends, and Eric soon confesses that he doesn't sleep.

Of course, Darren's first reaction is what most of ours would be: so, don't drink so much caffeine. To which Eric's response is something along the lines of, "Dude, you don't understand..." Soon, the two boys are planning a multi-film epic that will be tied together with comic books and video games and, inevitably, a television series.

But, the course of true friendship and entertainment-moguldom is never an easy path, and...stuff happens. It would be unfair to say more.

Pierson is a good young writer, who has claimed J. D. Salinger as one of his influences. As far as I'm concerned, he has written a much better book than anything I've ever read of Salinger's. I find Salinger's work unpleasant and his characters (principally Holden Caulfield) impossible to like or to sympathize with. On the other hand, Pierson has created in Eric and Darren two characters who do stupid things, sometimes colossally stupid things, and sometimes mean things. There were a couple of points while reading the book where I would have cheerfully throttled both of them. But I continued to like them and to pull for them to work it all out.

I like this book more than I like most novels that are meant to be literary, rather than genre, works. And, The Boy... was clearly meant to be a literary novel. But deep down, this is a fantasy novel, and I like it all the more for that.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Music Sunday: Live Aid Anniversary Edition

Twenty-seven years ago last Friday, Live Aid was unleashed on the world. I remember that day; I spent it sitting in front of the television watching the coverage on MTV. I saw nearly the whole broadcast. I might have napped a couple of times during the day, but I got up early and stayed until the end. It was an amazing, interesting day.

Oh, not all of the performance were wonderful, to be sure. But even some of the not-so-good performances were fun to watch, and it was all in a good cause, to raise money and awareness regarding victims of famine in Ethiopia. The whole thing was organized by Bob Geldof, who had earlier organized the Band Aid benefit single, "Do They Know It's Christmas?", and Midge Ure, and they did an amazing job considering the logistics of putting together two all-star concerts that would take place simultaneously in two hemispheres. And, yes, there were criticisms later about the money-raising aspects of the show, and accusations (some of them long after the fact) that not all the money went where it was supposed to go. Be that as it may, it was a remarkable day of music, put together and pulled off much more successfully than anyone could have expected.

One of the most vivid memories I have of the day is the performance by U2. I had probably heard of the band before that day, but I wasn't really aware of them. Looking back, though, I think one of the most remarkable aspects of their performance is being able to see the beginnings of Bono's ability to hold a huge audience in the palm of his hand, especially here, as he sang "Bad", which has come to be one of my favorite U2 songs.

And, yes, he really can do that palm of the hand thing. I saw U2 on its Oakland, California, stop during its Zoo TV tour in1992, and witnessed this live and in person.

However, at Live Aid, Bono was still an amateur in the art of holding a big audience. Later that afternoon, also at the London venue of the concert, Freddie Mercury and Queen held the master class in uniting an audience into one entity and turning them to the band's purpose. The performance has been cited widely as the best live rock performance ever, and I'm inclined to agree. No, really. Just watch. It's remarkable:

There have been attempts since to recreate the success of Live Aid, mostly to lesser success. I think it can be compared to Woodstock in that respect. The 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair, for all of its problems, was a once in a lifetime event, and attempts to recreate it (notably the Rolling Stones' disastrous free concert at Altamont Speedway and the efforts to hold sequels to the original Woodstock in 1979, 1989, and 1994) were clearly not in a class with the original.

Speaking of Woodstock, Crosby Stills, and Nash, who appeared at Woodstock in 1969 (in one of their first live performances), appeared at the Philadelphia venue of Live Aid, singing "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes", among other songs:

Their performance that day isn't their best ever, vocally speaking, but as someone who remembers the original Woodstock (and spent the weekend wishing I was there, despite the rain and mud and logistical problems), I appreciate the link between the two events. And, having seen CSN perform live, I can attest to the fact that when they are on vocally, the results are beautiful.

The Who also performed at both Woodstock and Live Aid, but with a slightly different line-up since, by the time of Live Aid, Keith Moon had already died.

Also performing at both Live Aid and Woodstock were Joan Baez, Carlos Santana and Neil Young, who performed as part of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young at Woodstock. Baez even managed to invoke Woodstock as part of her performance:

I'm not sure if Live Aid really was that generation's Woodstock, as Baez called it, but it was a remarkable musical event.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Public speaking - I'm not afraid. Are you?

Yesterday, I did something that would make many people flip out. That is, I stood up in front of people and talked.

It went fairly well. I survived, and so did the people who had to sit there and listen to me. I'm sure that I said "um" and "uh" too many times, and one of those who listened to me told me afterward that he was distracted by by glasses sitting too low on my nose (he said he kept wondering if they were going to fall off). But, I also got compliments on my part of the presentation (there were two others who also spoke), and I feel pretty good about the whole experience.

I think it is interesting that there have been polls indicating that most people are more afraid of getting up and speaking in front of an audience than they are of dying. That seems pretty extreme to me. But, I've got things I'm frightened of, too, so I'm really in no position to judge. Honestly, though, I've never been afraid of speaking before groups, large and small.

This probably has something to do with the fact that I've been up in front of people enough in my life that it seems natural to me.

I don't even really remember the first time I was up in front of an audience, but I've heard the stories and seen photos. I was about two years old, and the event was a fashion show to show off sewing projects by high school students. My aunt had made a dress that was my size, and I modeled it in the show. Apparently, I had fun. I've been told that I wanted to go back and walk the runway again. Alas (and probably fortunately), that was both the beginning and the end of my career as a fashion model.

Then, there was the Christmas play I was in when I was five years old. I have a few fleeting memories of that, and none of those memories include being reluctant to go on stage. What I remember more clearly about that night was it being horribly foggy when it was time to go to the (Methodist) church for the play but it being clear as a bell and windy when we emerged from the church basement a couple of hours later.

During elementary school, I was required to speak in front of the whole school a number of times. I was in speech therapy beginning in second grade (I had a lisp), and nearly every time there was a need for a student to speak in an assembly, I was elected because it would be "good for me" to practice my non-lisping speech. I also was in my school band and, in sixth grade, all-district band, which meant being on-stage for performances. I didn't do as much of that sort of thing in junior high or high school, although I was onstage in a pageant at Shakespeare Festival in 9th grade.

Later on, during the time I was a Mormon, I was sometimes asked to give talks in church, teach Sunday School or Relief Society classes, and so forth, which gave me more experience talking in front of an audience. So did being involved in community theatre (although I usually did behind the scenes, backstage work rather than being on stage), holding offices and campaigning for offices while I was involved in Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and other random things I've done through the years.

All of this means that I've been up in front of an audience - ranging from a few people to, in a few cases, a few hundred people - enough that it makes sense for me not to get too anxious or upset about it. On the other hand, there are people who make a living getting up in front of an audience who report getting sick nearly every time, even after years of experience.

Maybe I'm just a ham (some of my friends would probably say that there is no "maybe" about it). Maybe it's something genetic. Whatever the cause, I'm glad that I'm able to have fun with getting up in front of groups and speaking. I've seen too many people just miserable about even having to get up in a class and do a presentation. And by miserable, I mean sweaty-palmed, tongue-tied, run-to-the-bathroom-to-ralph miserable. And I don't want to have to go through that kind of miserable.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Music Sunday: Happy Birthday Edition...

Here in the United States, we celebrated our nation's birthday this week, with all of the food, fireworks and patriotic music that implies. It put me in mind of the July 4th I spent, many years ago, riding around north Wales and discovering that one of the radio stations there was actually playing John Phillip Sousa marches and other patriotic songs from the US. It was interesting to me that they would do that, and it was kind of fun spending that gray, rainy (until late afternoon, when the sun came out) day seeing green hills, sheep and cows, small Welsh villages and, occasionally, the ruins of a castle on a distant hilltop, and listening to American patriotic music.

But, since I'm really not a huge fan of that genre of music, I thought I'd take a look and see who in the music world celebrated their birthdays in the past week, and share some of their music with you.

It was Ringo Starr's birthday on July 7. I've shared music from The Beatles here before, more than once, but I thought I'd share one of the songs Starr recorded after he left the band. This one, "It Don't Come Easy", is my favorite of his post-Beatles career, if for nothing else the line, "I don't ask for much/I only want trust":

It was also Robbie Robertson's birthday this week, on July 5. Robertson, of course, had a long career with The Band, but he has also done some interesting solo work. This song, "Somewhere Down the Crazy River", is my favorite of his work away from The Band:

Huey Lewis also celebrated a birthday on July 5. He had a number of hits with his band, The News but, again, I thought I would share some of his work from outside his usual habitat, "Cruisin'" recorded with Gweneth Paltrow, from the film Duets.

From the world of country music, Toby Keith is celebrating his birthday today, July 8. He has recorded a number of songs that could be classed as patriotic music, and created more than a little controversy with some of it. But I first became aware of his work with this song, "How Do You Like Me Now?" How many of us haven't wanted to go back and tell someone from our past, "Hey, look at me now. Not as bad as you thought, huh?" But the video doesn't take the easy way out; he didn't get the girl in high school, and he doesn't get her when comes back twenty years later, either. It's a fun song and a clever video:

And then, just to wrap things up and come 'round full circle to The Beatles, here is Paul McCartney, singing "Birthday" to Ringo Starr a couple of years ago at a show at Radio City Music Hall:

Friday, July 06, 2012

Thoughts about fashion and news on a Friday night...

I saw an item the other day while I was reading on the Internet that Kate Middleton - excuse me, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge; not being British, I don't understand the ins and outs of properly referring to royalty, so I had to look that up - wore a dress to Wimbledon the other day that she had, heaven help us all, worn before.

This item - I refuse to call it a news story, because it is my position that what anyone wears, even royalty, isn't important enough to rise to the status of news - has been on my mind every since. I don't understand the mindset that, above a certain rank or social class or level wealth, there is something, I don't know, untoward, about a woman wearing an outfit more than once.

Yes, I understand the concept of conspicuous consumption and that it is one of the ways that people impress upon the world that they are of higher class, rank, or wealth. That is, I understand it intellectually. Emotionally and logically, I don't get it at all, especially the part where the press, the gossips, and sometimes people in general, take such people to task if they don't cooperate with the program and go ahead and wear something more than once.

I have to admit that my first reaction when I read the item was to think, "So what?" Still, the very fact that someone thought to write about it, and someone else facilitated its publication on a widely-enough website (I think it was Yahoo! News) that I would run across the item. I don't seek out gossip columns or stories about British royalty.

Later on, however, it occurred to me to wonder what message such stories send to the people who read them, and whether these message are inadvertent or deliberate. Are we meant to envy the person, this time the Duchess, who can afford to be seen in public only once in an outfit? Are we to admire the wealth that it takes to be able to do that? Are we to aspire to such wealth? Or are we meant to simply feel put in our places or reminded that we are certainly not the equal of someone of that rank and wealth, and probably never will be?

Or is the message meant not for the masses, but for the Duchess herself, that she should be ashamed of herself for betraying her adopted station in life? Was it meant to shame her into getting with the program of conspicuous consumption?

I suspect that Kate doesn't give a rip that anyone noticed that she was wearing something she had worn before. There have been items published previously detailing her fondness for shopping at stores those who are not married to the future King of England can also afford. She might even have laughed, had she seen the item.

The question is, should we care? Obviously, someone wants us to. After all, the story was written, and it was published. And whether or not there was a deliberate message intended, the item set off this string of thoughts in my mind. I assume that I am not the only one whose thoughts wandered in the same direction when they saw the story

I don't think we should care what the Duchess wears, or how many times she wears each item of clothing. But I think I do care that this is what we get in our daily news feeds, with a prominent enough headline that I noticed the item. There are important and serious things going on in the world. What someone wears, even if that someone is the future Queen of England, really isn't important in the grand scheme of things.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Music Sunday - Academy Award-winning Songs Edition...

I've been thinking about movie music this week, and about the songs that have won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

The songs in this category, which was not introduced until the 7th ceremony, for films released in 1934), must have been written specifically for the film in which they appear, and the award goes to the songwriters, not the singer/s of the song in the film, although there have been several instances of a songwriter also being the singer in the film.

Probably the best place to start is the winner in 1939, from The Wizard of Oz: "Over the Rainbow", written by Harold Arlen (Music) and Yip Harburg (Lyrics), and sung in the film by Judy Garland. This is a good place to start because the American Film Institute has named this the greatest movie song of all time. And it is one of my favorites. Here is how it appears in the movie:

My favorite Best Song winner, however, is this one, "The Windmills of Your Mind", written by Michel Legrand (music) and Alan and Marilyn Bergman (Lyrics), which appeared in the 1968 film, The Thomas Crown Affair, starring Steve McQueen. Sung by Noel Harrison (also an actor and the son of actor Rex Harrison), its use in the film is, I think, perfect:

The song, and the performance of the song fit perfectly, I think, the visuals that accompany it.

In the remake of the film, which starred Pierce Brosnan (and which I have not seen), the song is covered by Sting. I've heard that version, and while it is not bad, I don't like it nearly as much as the original.

Another interesting Best Original Song winner is, as unlikely as it seems, from the Alfred Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), by Jay Livingston (music) and Ray Evans (Lyrics). "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)" (the order of the song title was changed to "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for purposes of the ceremony), which became Doris Day's signature song, usually gets a lighthearted reading in performance. Not so in the film, where it is also performed by Doris Day:

Also bearing mention, historically speaking, is "Evergreen", from the Barbra Streisand version of A Star is Born. When this song won Best Original Song, Streisand became the first woman to win in the category for composing the music, as opposed to writing the lyrics (which were written by Paul Williams). The song also won the Golden Globe that year for Best Original Song, and Streisand won a Grammy for it for Song of the Year. It is also a good song, used effectively in the film, where she sings it with Kris Kristofferson:

In the past couple of decades, more songwriters from the rock, pop, and other contemporary music world have won Academy Awards for Best Original Song. Perhaps most notable is Bruce Springsteen's win, in 1993, for "Streets of Philadelphia", from the Tom Hanks/Denzel Washington film Philadelphia, for writing both the music and the lyrics:

Apologies for the poor quality of the sound after the song itself, but I couldn't find a video of the use of the song in the film. This performance of the song, from the Academy Award ceremonies, is wonderful, but whoever posted the clip was not as careful at the end, when Springsteen made his acceptance speech, and there is some background noise.

Other winners from the rock/pop/rap world include, Phil Collins, who has been nominated three times and won for "You'll Be in My Heart", from Tarzan; Lionel Richie, who won for "Say You, Say Me", from White Nights; Elton John, who wrote the music of "Can You Feel The Love Tonight", from The Lion King; Bob Dylan, for "Things Have Changed", from Wonder Boys; Annie Lennox, who collaborated on the music and lyrics for "Into The West", from Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King; and, perhaps most surprisingly (for me, at least), Eminem won for writing the lyrics to "Lose Yourself", from 8 Mile. My surprise comes not so much from has having written winning lyrics, but from the Academy voting for the song. And, on another historical note, Melissa Etheridge won for writing "I Need to Wake Up", from An Inconvenient Truth, marking the first time a song from a documentary had won in the category.

For me, one of the most interesting things about the history of Best Original Song winners is that even though I'm both a music fan and a film fan, there are so many of the songs, both winners and nominees, that I don't know at all. While some were hits, others seem to have made no mark on he world outside of the film they appeared in, at least in any venue that I am aware of.