When you hear Kenny Loggins’ No. 1 hit “Danger Zone,” what comes immediately to mind? Probably Tom Cruise, or Navy fighter jets, or pilots with names like Iceman, Jester and Maverick. In other words, you think of Top Gun, the 1986 action flick that made a movie star of Cruise and a pop star of Loggins.
When word got out about Cruise producing a Top Gun sequel (Top Gun: Maverick, which appeared in 2022), Loggins was curious about whether “Danger Zone” would make the cut on the soundtrack once again. As fate would have it, he got an answer from Cruise himself.
“I did Jimmy Kimmel Live! … and Tom was on the same show,” Loggins told Hollywood Reporter (via Yahoo). “And, backstage, I went up to him and said, ‘So, I hear you’re going to do the new Top Gun. Tell me, is “Danger Zone” in or out?’ And he said, ‘It would not be Top Gun without “Danger Zone.”’ I thought maybe he was trying to be nice, but he meant it, and I was very pleased.”
The reappearance of “Danger Zone” in current popular culture has given Loggins the opportunity to reminisce about the song’s creation, as he did recently on the Rock & Roll High School with Pete Ganbarg podcast. Loggins had been in the studio, recording another Top Gun song (“Playing with the Boys,” which was featured in the film’s beach volleyball scene), when producer and composer Giorgio Moroder called.
“They had an act all set to record ‘Danger Zone,’” Loggins recalled. “That act’s lawyers had ruined the deal or something and that act had dropped out. And [Moroder] said, ‘I need to dub this song into the movie in two days. I need a singer.’ And I said, ‘I’m a singer!”
Once in the studio, Loggins got down to work with lyricist Tom Whitlock. “We worked on the song, changed some words, changed some chords, talked to Giorgio,” Loggins said. “I was in the studio the next day, I think, recording the vocal on it.”
When it came to the vocal, Loggins had an unusual influence informing his singing.
“One of the things that I recently confessed is that I had been steeped in Tina Turner’s comeback stuff,” he told Ganbarg. “I loved what she was doing. And when I heard the song, I just automatically sang it a little like Tina … I was tipping my cap to Tina.”
When it came time to contribute to Top Gun: Maverick, Loggins created a new version of “Danger Zone” – one that never made it into the film.
“I did re-record 'Danger Zone' to make a 5.0 version that would wrap around the audience," he told Entertainment Weekly. "But Tom Cruise really wanted to conjure up the original version, the original feeling. So in the long run, it turned out to be the old track coming back."
A classic is a classic, after all.