Like millions around the globe, I was saddened by the untimely, unexpected death of Michael Jackson. For Gen Xers like me his passing was particularly difficult because he was a towering icon to us — a musical superhero who, with “Thriller,” provided the soundtrack to our youth.
Many of us were only beginning to adjust to life in a post-Michael Jackson world when barely a month later John Hughes, the Hollywood writer/director we loved for the way he understood and reflected our lives and feelings in such classic 80s teen films as “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” died of a heart attack during a walk in New York.
One of the hallmarks of Hughes’ coming-of-age films was his sublime use of popular music to heighten emotions and push the narratives. Here are my top five scene-with-song moments from the John Hughes’ library.
“Sixteen Candles”: At the very end of the film Samantha sits crosslegged on a tabletop with high school hottie Jake while Thompson Twins’ plaintive pop gem “If You Were Here” plays over the scene. How is it possible that Jake looks as gorgeous and trendy now as he did then?
“The Breakfast Club”: To the stirring strains of Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me,” five Saturday detention students from different cliques go their separate ways after a day spent fighting, sharing and bonding. The song was a well-deserved number one hit.
“Pretty In Pink”: Duckie performs a killer, manic lip synch to Otis Reddings’ soul belter “Try A Little Tenderness” in the middle of a vintage store. It’s a bid to win the affections of his longtime unrequited love — which is surprisingly a girl seeing as how the character seems gay! Gay! GAY!
“Weird Science”: The frenetic opening montage shown over Oingo Boingo’s frenetic mad scientist-inspired title track sets the over-the-top tone of this boys-create-a-babe film. Lead Boingo Danny Elfman is now a famous movie orchestrator best known for his work with director Tim Burton.
“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”: Hughes helped another generation discover The Beatles when he had the movie’s title character hop on a parade float in downtown Chicago and lip synch to the Fab Four’s classic “Twist And Shout.” The spontaneous dancing that breaks out in the film happens in real life I’ve noticed whenever this song is played.