This seems to be the season of loss. From Michael Jackson to Patrick Swayze, it is becoming a sad time for most of us who grew up with the former and danced with the latter through his groundbreaking film, Dirty Dancing. I was still in school when the film came out. And as it took the world by storm it opened my mind to the further possibilities of performance and persona building.
There is a unique ability of how film and music can come together to make a character so much larger than the actor. In the case of Dirty Dancing, when the film came out, everybody wanted to be Johnny Castle (well, maybe just me), Patrick Swayze’s character in the film. I remember cutting the sleeves off a black t-shirt that I had and tucking it into a pair of black trousers and walking around with that Patrick Swayze swagger. And almost all of us at some point in time tried those simultaneous hip gyrations with our respective girlfriends.
But that was not all. The film also triggered my passion for dancing, right in the midst of Michael Jackson mania! You see, Dirty Dancing, the film and soundtrack released on August 21 and Micheal’s Bad released August 31, just 10 days later in 1987.
Now as we know international music and films didn’t reach India simultaneously as they do today, so it was a few weeks later that the film and soundtrack hit Indian shores along with Michael’s ‘Bad’ and the collision was beautiful.
Another interesting coincidence I must mention is that the choreographer on Dirty Dancing, the film is one Mr Kenny Ortega, who is also the director of the hugely successful High School Musical films and was the creative force behind Michael Jackson’s ‘This is it’ farewell shows.
But Dirty Dancing was a phenomenon that continues till today. The soundtrack spent 18 weeks at the number one spot on the US Billboard album charts back then. Its perfect mix of contemporary pop songs with classic 1950’s pop ditties, has made it one of the largest selling soundtracks of all time, with over 42 million copies sold. So much so that even the album had a sequel called
More Dirty Dancing, which featured more golden oldies that appear in the film. This also set off a huge oldies music revival with most films following the template set by the soundtrack.
We all know the legendary song that led the film’s spirit, the Grammy award winning, ‘(I’ve had) The time of my life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, but the songs, ‘Hungry eyes’ by Eric Carmen and ‘She’s like the wind’, sung by Patrick Swayze, became huge hits as well.
But all said and done, it is Patrick Swayze’s timeless performance that made the film what it has become. His rugged charm, his kind features and that sunshine smile that made Jennifer Grey, and by extension, every single woman on earth go weak in the knees.
The dancing, the perfection of those body moves, and the finale of when Patrick lifts Jennifer Grey over his head, has been defined as one of the ‘most goose bump-inducing dance scenes in movie history’.
So as Mr. Swayze goes to the big dancehall in the sky, pull out your copy of the soundtrack, put on the film and remember when he made you have the time of your life. We owe it all to him… if I may say so.