Thursday, June 07, 2018

Instrumental mystery (Solved!)

For the past few days I've had a song stuck in my head. Unfortunately, it is an instrumental, making it impossible to track down by snippets of lyrics.

I had very little to go by: It sounds a bit like "The Hustle." It has a funky wocka-wocka guitar in it, but also has an orchestral sound. It opens with swirling violins, and features harps and horns. It was very popular in its day, and still gets a lot of airplay. But I had no idea what it was.

I put the question out to my friends on Facebook. One suggested checking the works of Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield. But I felt they were more funk, while this was more what I described as "The Living Strings Go Disco."

There was nothing to do but grind through lists of instrumental songs of the 1970's. I was guessing the song was from the 70's: it had enough of a disco sensibility to put it past the 1960's, but enough of an orchestral sound to probably predate the more electro-funk disco of the early 1980's. Somehow I got the notion that the song was from 1973. It turned out I was right.

I played through snippets of lots of instrumental songs of the 1970's. Some were very familiar, some I had never heard of. Some I hadn't heard in a good long time. Then there was one by...Barry White? Barry White, the Icon of Love? Barry White, with the deep, soulful voice that I can only come close to imitating when I am very, very sick? What is Barry White doing on a list of instrumental songs of the 1970's?

Turned out is was actually Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra. And the song, "Love's Theme," was exactly the song I was looking for.

(I won't include a link to the song here; such links are ephemeral, and eventually break and go dead. You can look it up if you want to hear it for yourself.)

From the Wikipedia entry for "Love's Theme:"

"Love's Theme" is an instrumental piece recorded by Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra and released in 1973 as a single. It is one of the few instrumental and purely orchestral singles to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States, which it did in early 1974. Billboard ranked it as the No. 3 song for 1974.[2] The piece was included on two albums: 1973's Under the Influence of... Love Unlimited (by the vocal group Love Unlimited) and 1974's Rhapsody in White by Love Unlimited Orchestra.

The recording, with a large string orchestra, wah-wah guitar, and big rhythm, is considered by author Peter Shapiro to be an influence to the disco sound, which would explode in popularity the following year.

It has an enduring presence:

The Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways used the song for their TV advertisements. It was also featured briefly in Mean Girls, Despicable Me 2, El Cantante, Goodbye Bruce Lee: His Last Game of Death and The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.

So now I can put that earworm out of my head. And now that I know what it is, I can call it back any time I want.

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