First person: Diane Warren reminisces about each of her nine Oscar nominated songs
For songwriter Diane Warren, the songs — and the Oscar nominations — just keep on coming.
She got her ninth Academy Award nod this year for best original song (along with Common, who wrote the rap lyrics) for “Stand Up for Something” from the movie “Marshall.”
Warren, a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, has written music that’s been featured in more than 100 movies. She’s won Grammy, Golden Globe and Emmy awards and written songs for everyone from Celine Dion to Beyoncé to Justin Bieber.
Here are Warren’s memories of each of her Oscar nominated tunes.
“Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” (“Mannequin” 1987)
This was the first song I was ever nominated for an Oscar for. It was also my first No. 1 song on the Billboard charts. I wrote it with my friend Albert Hammond. Starship recorded it. We were supposed to write a wedding song for a man...and a mannequin? Somehow, we achieved that and this song has stood the test of time and the movie has become a guilty pleasure classic and evidently a favorite of mannequins everywhere.
“Because You Loved Me” (“Up Close and Personal” 1996)
This song was a tribute to Robert Redford’s character by Michelle Pfeiffer’s character. It is about his love and belief in her and what it meant and how she was a better person because of it. I also wanted to thank my Dad for his belief in me and in my music, so in a way it also was a thank you letter to my Dad. Along the way it has become a wedding standard and used for a lot of father/daughter dances which makes me especially happy.
I won my first and only Grammy for this song and received both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. To this day, it is one of Celine Dion’s best-loved and most requested songs.
“How Do I Live” (“Con Air” 1997)
This was the first song I did for Jerry Bruckheimer. There were about a hundred songs written for Con Air, one of them being mine. I happened to run into LeAnn Rimes and told her I wrote this song for “Con Air” (without mentioning the other 99 possibilities). She loved it and went home to record it and do a video. (The song still hadn’t been approved, but I sometimes get a little ahead of myself ) Jerry ended up loving the song but wanted a more mature artist to do it since LeAnn was only 14. What happened was that both LeAnn and Trisha Yearwood ended up releasing the song simultaneously with Trisha’s being used in the movie and becoming a No. 1 country single and one of the biggest songs of her career. LeAnn’s became one of the biggest pop records and to this day is still in the Top 10 of biggest Billboard songs of all time.
“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” (“Armageddon” 1998)
I had heard James Brolin had done an interview where he said he missed Barbra Streisand when he is asleep, and I loved the idea of that and came up with the title “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”. When Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney’s then-music head Kathy Nelson showed me the film, I thought that would be a great song to write for “Armageddon” where it could possibly be the end of the world and what would someone say to someone they loved with the time they had left. Steven Tyler’s daughter Liv was in the movie, and he was very emotional when he heard the song and wanted to sing it. It became Aerosmith’s first #1 record and biggest hit of their career.
“Music of My Heart” (“Music of The Heart” 1999)
This movie was the true story of Roberta Guaspari, a music teacher portrayed by Meryl Streep. I wanted to write a song from the point of view of her students, thanking her for all she had done for them, for believing in them so much and pushing them and making them better musicians as well as better people. I remembered a counselor from summer camp who had an amazing influence on me by being kind and encouraging. So I wrote this song as a way to thank her and those people in our lives who make such a huge difference in them. Gloria Estefan, who is a dear friend of mine co-starred in the movie, so we all wanted her to do the song. Then the idea came for her to record it with ’N SYNC, who were one of the biggest groups on the planet at that time.
“There You’ll Be” (“Pearl Harbor” 2001)
This was my third nominated song that I did for Jerry Bruckheimer. I thought Faith Hill would be the perfect artist for it. Jerry kept making me rewrite it over and over and said not to send the song to Faith until he approved it, which of course I didn’t do. I sent her the song anyway and she loved it and wanted to record it. After Jerry finally approved it, he said to send it. He probably wondered why she said yes so fast! The song is about when we lose someone they are never really gone, that they live forever in our hearts and are with us everywhere we go. There’s something comforting about that. It has a life of its own after the movie, where the song is often used honoring those we have lost.
“Grateful” (“Beyond the Lights” 2014)
There are some movies that don’t get the audience they deserve. This is one. In all honesty, I was happily surprised that this song got nominated. It’s very hard to make a movie about the music biz and make it realistic and compelling. This one did both. “Beyond the Lights” was a powerful story that was beautifully written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and brilliantly acted by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. I wrote “Grateful” to say that after all the lead character went through, all the pain of being forced to be someone she wasn’t, that becoming her authentic self was worth all of that. Whatever we go through makes us who we are, and sometimes no matter how painful, you have to just be grateful for that.
“Til It Happens To You” (The Hunting Ground 2015)
When I wrote this song for this documentary, sexual assault wasn’t a subject people talked about very openly. I like to think this song helped take it out of the shadows. It is also a subject that hit home as I had dealt with molestation in my own life. I wanted the song to also be open enough to move beyond that so that anyone hearing it could relate to anything difficult that they had gone through, whether it was bullying, losing someone you loved or depression. Most people’s reactions are it’s going to get better, you will be fine and when you are in that place it doesn’t feel like that at all. This song was a reaction to that. It’s like no; you don’t know how it feels. Til it happens to you, you don’t know. I thought there would be no better artist on the planet to do this than Lady Gaga so I called her and played her the song on the phone and she was in tears. The record she made and performance she gave is a masterpiece and her Oscar performance is one for the ages. This song has touched so many people and has really made a difference, and at the end of the day, what more can you ask for?
“Stand Up for Something” (“Marshall” 2017)
I was having dinner with my friend Jackie Fuchs and she mentioned her cousin had written a movie about Thurgood Marshall that Reggie Hudlin, whom I had met when he produced the Oscars, was directing. I called Reggie to ask if he wanted a song for the movie, and he said yes and sent me the script. After reading it I wrote down the lines “it all means nothing if you don’t stand up for something” because it represented who Thurgood was. He stood up in a time when it was a huge risk to do that. I came in to work and listened to Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” over and over. I wanted to capture that stirring inspiring kind of song that was a call to action. I wrote the chorus pretty quickly. I wanted it to be a song that would make you want to change the world. Then I thought, what if there was a rap on it, which you would never hear in this kind of song and it would be a really cool mashup of genres. I thought no one would be better than Common, and we had previously talked about doing something together. Not even a week later, I was on the way to Sundance and he was right behind me on the plane! I sang him the chorus, and he said send the song ASAP. The next day, he wanted to be a part it. It was so meant to be. What’s amazing about this song is that so many people and different causes have embraced it, from the ACLU to NAACP to CNN Heroes to Stand Up to Cancer to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements and others. This song is about integrity. It’s about standing up because in the times we are living in, we cannot afford not to.
From the Emmys to the Oscars.
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