While we’ve got some time in the off-season, let’s take a look back at the music of GLEE’s past. All the way back to the episode that started it all, the Pilot, and the music that made us all stand up and take notice that this was like nothing else on television.
Where Is Love?
Written by Lionel Bart
Performed on GLEE by Ben Bledsoe (I totally looked that up)
From the 1960 musical, Oliver!, this song’s been performed countless times on stage, and on screen in 1968. It’s performed by young Oliver, after he’s been bought by an undertaker, Mr. Sowerberry, and sent to bed in the basement with the coffins. That’s right, coffins.
Josh Note: This song is on the short list of GLEE songs performed by no-name characters. “Yeah!” by the anonymous all-girl group and “Imagine” by the Haverbrook Deaf Choir. I’m sure there’s more that you can add in the credits.
Written by Otis Redding
Performed Most Notably by Aretha Franklin
Performed on GLEE by Amber Riley
It became Aretha’s signature song in 1967, but it was written and performed by Otis Redding in 1965. His version has a much different flavor, with variations in the lyrics, serving as more of a plea for respect than Aretha’s demand. Either way, it’s a classic that’s been added to the Library of Congress, the Grammy Hall of Fame, and ranked #5 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Josh Note: Here’s something I just learned tonight: The line is “R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Take care… TCB.” I’ve spent 30-*cough* years thinking it was “Take out T-C-P,” which would be “R-E-S-E,” which, I’m 90% sure, is not a word. “TCB” stands for “Taking Care of Business,” and was added for the Aretha Franklin version. Who knew?!
Written by Kander and Ebb
Performed on GLEE by Chris Colfer
Based on a 1926 play of the same name, Chicago gave us this song, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. The pair has more than two dozen shows under their belt, including Cabaret, Zorba, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Curtains. As well as the aforementioned Funny Lady. Roxie’s husband performs it in Act II, while trying to claim paternity for her (made up) pregnancy.
Josh Note: You’ve all seen the movie Chicago, or the play Chicago, and heard how this was Chris Colfer’s audition song, yada yada yada. Now, let’s talk about Bob Fosse. Actor, director and choreographer, his style defined the show and the movie that followed, and arguably, dance in the 1960’s. He won eight Tony’s for choreography and one for direction, was nominated for an Oscar four times and beat Francis Ford Coppola for Best Director (who was nominated for The Godfather). Lenny is an amazing film. Cabaret is undeniable. And, straight up, seeing All That Jazz was a seminole moment in my life.
I Kissed a Girl
Written by Katy Perry, Dr. Luke, Max Martin and Cathy Dennis
Performed Most Notably by Katy Perry
Performed on GLEE by Jenna Ushkowitz
The song that took Katy Perry from Christian popster to whore-chic was the first single off her 2008 One of the Boys. She says it’s “about the magical beauty of a woman,” also claiming it was inspired by Scarlett Johansson and a friendship Perry had with a girl when she was 15. So, yeah, take that however you want.
Josh Note: If I can die without ever hearing this song again, I’ll consider that a victory. But, if it got a few tweens to accidentally buy this song, then it’s not all bad. (I can’t take responsibility for that video, by the way. It’s oddly overclocked, but I couldn’t find a better version.)
Leaving on a Jet Plane
Written by John Denver
Performed Most Notably by Peter, Paul and Mary
Performed on GLEE by Matthew Morrison
John Denver originally wrote the song as “Oh, Babe I Hate To Go” in 1966 and recorded it on an album of demos he sent to friends as a Christmas card. His producer, Milt Okun, got it recorded by the Chad Mitchell Trio in 1967 and Peter, Paul and Mary. It was later recorded by everyone from Me First and the Gimme Gimmes to Eve 6 to New Order. Pick an artist, they’ve probably covered it.
Josh Note: The scene of Will Schuester performing this was cut from the original broadcast of the Pilot, but made it into the Director’s Cut and the DVD.
Can’t Fight This Feeling
Written by Kevin Cronin
Performed Most Notably by REO Speedwagon
Performed on GLEE by Cory Monteith
REO Speedwagon released this song in 1984, a track that pretty much defined the term “Power Ballad.” They were known as a rather standard AM Rock band before that, but you can’t argue with results. The song appeared on their 1984 album Wheels Are Turnin’, every one of their greatest hits and live records afterward and dozens of movie and TV soundtracks.
Josh Note: Speedwagon recently played The Greek in LA with Rick Springfield. Finn Hudson would’a been in heaven. Also, this link is totally unrelated, yet I enjoyed it, in my research, because I have a soft-spot for Sophie Ellis Bextor.
Don’t Stop Believing
Written by Jonathan Cain, Steve Perry and Neal Schon
Performed Most Notably by Journey
Performed on GLEE by The Glee Cast
From the band’s 1981 album, Escape, the song has the distinction of having a hook that doesn’t actually appear until 50-seconds before the end of the track. It peaked on the US Chart at #62 when it was released, but enjoyed a serious resurgence in the 2000’s when it became the theme at sporting events, was used on numerous TV shows, and became one of the most downloaded iTunes tracks of all time.
Josh Note: We’re done with this song, right? I mean, we had our fun, we sang along and played air guitar, but, you know, time to move on. Actually, Journey as a whole, okay? You know they found their new lead singer on YouTube singing covers of Journey songs? And, they’ve only got two original members. That’s more than the current line-up of Lynyrd Skynyrd, but still…