April 28, 2020
Unpopular opinion: Dirty Dancing sucked. Jennifer Grey’s character was named “Baby.” It reminded many Gen X kids of that cheesy dinosaur movie, Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend, two years earlier.
There’s also a very popular opinion about the film – its signature soundtrack tune is an 80s classic.
“(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on November 28, 1987. It also reached #1 in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Holland and South Africa. But the song was supplanted from the #1 spot in the U.S. after only one week, thanks to Belinda Carlisle and “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” (which contains one of my favorite lyrics of all time: “…and lift me up in a wave of love”). Regardless, every American age 40-50 probably has a story associated with either the movie Dirty Dancing or its signature soundtrack song.
The Medley/Warnes duet was not supposed to be a hit or even supposed to happen at all. Warnes herself told Carl Wiser of Songfacts.com, that the song was essentially a successful mistake.
I think it was an accident that just blossomed. Nobody thought it would be this huge. It was just a surprise. And we did our best, Bill and I. The movie was great – still popular and always will be. But I’ve thought about it and I wondered why the whole world loves it so much and I think the answer is because it’s real joyful.
There’s a lot of truth in what Warnes said. “Time Of My Life” was allegedly meant to be a duet performed by Donna Summer and Joe Esposito. Then it was supposed to be a Lionel Richie/Donna Summer duet that didn’t happen, according to Rolling Stone. Summer reportedly turned down the opportunity.
Medley was hesitant at first to perform the duet too. He thought the title implied that Dirty Dancing was a porno film. He was also unavailable because his wife was expecting. Medley wanted to be there for the birth of his child versus some experimental song. But ultimately the stars aligned.
Producers also approached Daryl Hall and Kim Carnes to perform the song, to no avail. There are also reports that a Lionel Richie song was supposed to be the finale tune in Dirty Dancing. But it was rejected in favor of the Warnes-Medley classic.
None of the foregoing matters. The Dirty Dancing soundtrack and film are timeless classics. Those of us who grew up in the 1980s are privileged, fortunate and lucky to have anecdotes about it.