How Kenny Loggins Became King of the '80s Soundtrack

Kenny Loggins in 1985
Photo Credit
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

If movies and music go together like chocolate and peanut butter, Kenny Loggins might be one of pop's sweetest confectioners.

After the Bee Gees proved writing songs for the big screen could be big business with Saturday Night Fever, the pop soundtrack hit its stride in the '80s - and Loggins was at the forefront of it all. While he'd already established some bona fides as a popular performer - first as one half of the duo Loggins & Messina and then with soft rock hits like "This is It" at the tail end of the '70s - soundtracks really were Kenny's place to shine.

"The movie thing is an interesting synergy, because the movie lifts the song, the song lifts the movie," Loggins told Dan Rather in an interview in 2018. "And back then, it hadn't been done. Pop music and movies were not necessarily symbiotic. And all the sudden it was working. And MTV…was playing the videos from the movies."

Flash back with us to hear - and see! - Loggins' silver screen smashes.

"I'm Alright" (from Caddyshack, 1980)

The comedy classic about a golf course full of goofballs was literally propelled forward from the first minute by the heavenly harmonies of Loggins' "I'm Alright" - one of several songs he contributed to the film's soundtrack. "I'm Alright" reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and had audiences shimmying like that weird little gopher from the movie.

Read More: July 1980: Kenny Loggins is On the Ball with "I'm Alright"

"Footloose" and "I'm Free (Heaven Helps the Man)" (from Footloose, 1984)

Loggins' plucky songwriting style soon lent itself to another hits-packed soundtrack - this time from a MTV-style drama about a big city kid who challenges a small Southern town's ban on dancing. Footloose was a juggernaut, and Kenny's theme became both his first No. 1 hit and an Oscar and Golden Globe nominee. (Not to be slept on is his other song for the film: "I'm Free (Heaven Helps the Man)," a Top 40 hit in its own right.)

Read More: May/June 1984: 'Footloose' Soundtrack is the #1 Album in America

"Danger Zone" and "Playing with the Boys" (from Top Gun, 1986)

That pounding synth! The edgy guitars! Lyrics like "the further on the edge / the hotter the intensity!" Loggins' work for Top Gun may be the apex of '80s soundtracks overall, and the anthemic "Danger Zone" soared high to No. 2 on the pop charts. (Once again, Loggins dropped another gem on the same album: the beach volleyball anthem "Playing with the Boys.") When Top Gun: Maverick is released this year, fans will definitely be listening for something that'll rekindle the magic of these tracks.

Read More: May 1986: 'Top Gun' Hits Theaters Across America

"Meet Me Half Way" (from Over the Top, 1987)

By the late '80s, Loggins' soundtrack songs could become a hit even if the movie wasn't worth watching. Over the Top, a bizarre action-drama featuring Sylvester Stallone as a truck driver and competitive arm-wrestler (yes, you read that right), was nobody's idea of Oscar material. But the film's soaring power ballad, "Meet Me Half Way," was uplifting enough to become a Top 20 hit and further secured Loggins as the sovereign of soundtracks.

"Nobody's Fool" (from Caddyshack II, 1988)

"Back to the shack / nothing suits me better than that..." Loggins ended his '80s soundtrack career the way he started it, with the theme to Caddyshack's sequel. Like Over the Top, the less said about the film, the better - only Chevy Chase bothered to return from the original's cast, and only briefly - so the fist-pumping "Nobody's Fool" might be better than the film deserved. Skip the flick, be the ball, and enjoy.

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Rob Verhorst/Redferns
A band headed to nowhere ended up on top of the singles chart in 25 countries. Who can ever forget that sweet synth riff? Who's seen the Geico commercial version?
(EMI)
The album crashed the top 10 in America.
(Casablanca)
The theme to the big-screen blockbuster "Flashdance" was the third-biggest song of 1983.

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