I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Bill Conti/Maynard Ferguson -- Gonna Fly Now


When it comes to Sylvester Stallone, folks have known him to be the tough-as-nails cop or military maverick who will take down the worst of the worst in various guises whether it's Rambo or the first Judge Dredd or Cobra. He's even shown up in the Marvel Universe in the "Guardians of the Galaxy" sequel a few years ago.

However, despite all those roles and decades in show business going all the way back to the late 1960s, I will always recognize Sly as Rocky Balboa, the local boxing palooka from Philadelphia who gets his miraculous shot at greatness against the world champion Apollo Creed. Even though I never caught the very first "Rocky" as a kid on the big screen, I remember seeing the iconic montage of Rocky training and running up those steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. At the same time, reading the "Cracked" magazine parody of the movie helped me to learn about eating raw eggs, feeding turtles and punching frozen sides of beef. On a more serious note, the movie was one of the first examples that I discovered about a guy winning even though he still lost.

Of course, the theme song for "Rocky", "Gonna Fly Now", was the secret sauce for the greatness of the movie. When it was first created by composer/conductor Bill Conti and performed by his orchestra, it was all about following the epic rise of the boxer through 1970s downtown rock n' soul music (launched by that horn fanfare) as the chorus of DeEtta West and Nelson Pigford kept pushing forward with "Trying hard now", "Getting strong now" and "Gonna fly now". Since then, it's not only been the go-to song for any training montage but also the inspiration number for any tough project.

I hadn't been aware that "Gonna Fly Now" was nominated for an Oscar for Best Song (losing to Barbra Streisand's "Evergreen"), although the movie itself won for Best Picture. Released as a single in November 1976 on the same day that "Rocky" came out, it hit No. 1 on the US Billboard Top 100 and finished the year as the 21st-ranked song.

Canadian trumpeter Maynard Ferguson also put out his own faster and disco take on "Gonna Fly Now" in 1977. I've heard this version as often as I've heard the Conti original.

It's also been mentioned in the Wikipedia article for the song, but although "Gonna Fly Now" has often been used at sports events, especially in Philadelphia, in my Toronto, both the Conti and Ferguson versions have been used for the "Citypulse" news broadcasts on City-TV for years. I gather that there's nothing like this particular song to pump up the reporters. Also in my final year in band class in high school, our class tried to play the song. Let's say that neither Conti nor Ferguson had anything to fear but we had something to fear in the form of Stallone punching us in the side!

Once again, we come to the part in our weekly ROY article where we do the comparative thing and find out what singles were released in Japan at around the same time. As usual, a couple of the songs have some discrepancies in terms of when they were released depending on the source. "Showa Pops" says that all of them were released in November 1976 when the Conti original came out but J-Wiki has stated other months which I will also now include.

Naoko Ken -- Abayo (あばよ)(September 1976)

Shogo Hamada -- Ai no Kakehiki (愛のかけひき)(October 1976)

Kentaro Shimizu -- Shitsuren Resutoran (失恋レストラン)(November 1976)

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