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10 Great Oscar Winners for Best Original Song

10 Great Oscar Winners for Best Original Song

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Bob Dylan won his first and only Oscar to date for this doomy, bluesy number from Curtis Hanson’s 2000 film “Wonder Boys” — beating out Björk, who performed her nominated “I’ve Seen It All” that night in her iconic swan dress. “People are crazy and times are strange,” a wry, weary Dylan sings on an early and enduring highlight in his 21st-century discography. “I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range/I used to care, but things have changed.”

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Keith Carradine played a fictitious folk singer named Tom Frank in Robert Altman’s great 1975 musical tapestry “Nashville,” and the transfixing scene when he performs this song at a bar — and multiple women in the audience think it is about them — is a classic. Released under the actor’s own name, this acoustic ballad he wrote for the film became a hit in the real world, peaking at No. 17 on the Hot 100 and winning him the movie’s sole Oscar.

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You’re damn right Isaac Hayes won the 1972 best original song Oscar for this timelessly cool theme. His victory that night was historic: Not only was Hayes the first Black artist to win the award — he was also the first Black person ever to win a non-acting Oscar, period. In 1972! Way, way, way overdue.

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Confession: I did not realize that this song, which has since become a standard, was written for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 remake of “The Man Who Knew Too Much” until I recently saw the movie for the first time. The more you know!

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The Boss won an Oscar for the first song he ever wrote for a movie, this misty and forlorn mood piece from Jonathan Demme’s 1993 tear-jerker “Philadelphia.” The first version of the song — still unreleased, but heard briefly in the film — featured contributions from the jazz legends Ornette Coleman and “Little” Jimmy Scott, but for the single, Springsteen went with this sparser arrangement closer to the spirit of his original demo.

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Sometimes an Oscar-winning song outclasses, and outlasts, the film for which it was written — like “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” one of several songs Stevie Wonder contributed to the soundtrack of the 1984 Gene Wilder romantic comedy “The Woman in Red.” The single, of course, is quite well-known, but I like this extended version from the soundtrack, which ends with two minutes of Wonder having a lot of fun with a Vocoder.


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