Titanic theme song will go on forever
Apologies in advance: You’re going to have the “Titanic” theme song stuck in your head.
There’s nothing to be done about it, really. Just the mere mention of that behemoth of a boat movie is enough to dig the trill of the recorder out of the “1997” file in your memory and drop it directly into your ears.
“My Heart Will Go On” is not the best song of all time. “Titanic” is not the best movie of all time. But together they constitute the ultimate marriage of theme song and movie.
(Note: For level-playing-field purposes, musicals are excluded from this survey. Do not leave a comment about “Over the Rainbow.” It does not qualify.)
Perhaps you remember the radio version of the “Titanic” hit that literalized this idea, the one with dialogue spliced between the verses. Now every time you hear the line “You are safe in my heart and my heart will go on and on ...” you insert the voice of Leo piping up out of the ether to say, “You jump; I jump. Right?”
“?‘My Heart Will Go On’ is not just a song stuck on the end of a popular film,” said Jon Burlingame, a film music historian and author of “Sound and Vision: 60 Years of Motion Picture Soundtracks,” which includes a section on the “Titanic” music phenomenon. “You’ve got this haunting tune which goes throughout three hours of the film, and then it’s turned into a song at the end of the movie. You leave the film thinking about that, with that song resonating in your head.”
Maybe you hate it. Kate Winslet does, though fair to say it has a lot more baggage for her than it does for you. But maybe just the sound of that key change — you’re here, here’s NOOOOthing I fear! — makes you want to take a scalpel to your brain and carve out the spot where that song is stashed away.
As soon as you think you’ve escaped it, there it is again — in the waiting room at the dentist’s office or on that “Lite FM” station you put in when you’re in the car with your parents.
Has there ever been a more fitting theme song-to-movie match?
“The ones that immediately leapt to mind for me were ‘Doctor Zhivago’ in 1965 and ‘Love Story’ in 1970,” said Burlingame. Both were cases in which the instrumental music was so powerful, lyrics were added to create radio singles after the movies were released.
A similar thing happened with “Titanic”; James Cameron didn’t want a theme song, so composer James Horner “quietly employed a lyricist, Will Jennings,” said Burlingame. Horner had Celine Dion record a demo and persuaded Cameron to include it in the film.