It’s an ‘80s masterpiece, an American teen anthem and Judd Nelson’s fist in the air. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” cleverly trumpets all of these sentiments in one timeless bundle.
The song was written by English songwriter and producer Keith Forsey for the iconic 1985 film The Breakfast Club. But like the bumpy road of adolescence, the song’s journey to success was not without its own troubles.
Forsey explains that “[‘Don’t You’] was written for Simple Minds… but they turned it down.” His original pitch to the band flatlined, but Forsey was determined to change the minds of Simple Minds.
In a 2018 interview, Jim Kerr remembers Forsey’s unwavering resolve regarding “Don’t You.” Kerr states, “[W]e knocked it back about five or six times…. We were working on our own stuff, the album that was about to become Once Upon a Time…. We thought ‘We’ll be fine without your song.’”
In an attempt to finally persuade the band, Forsey flew to London under the guise of presenting new material to the band. And at the last minute, Forsey pitched “Don’t You” again. This time, though, it stuck. Simple Minds agreed to record the song and Kerr recalls that the bad was simply “smitten by Keith and his enthusiasm, [so] we took an afternoon in the studio.”
“Don’t You” burst to life in the studio as Simple Minds tweaked and imprinted their own sound on the track. In an interview with The Guardian, Kerr says, “I added the big ‘la, la-la-la-la’ ending because I didn’t have any lyrics. I said I’d write some, but Keith said: ‘Over my dead body. We’re keeping that.’”
The song then debuted as the track behind the opening and closing credits for The Breakfast Club. The official movie soundtrack was released days later and “Don’t You” flew to the number one position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Looking back at the song’s success Kerr acknowledges that “[p]rior to the release of ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me),’ Simple Minds had achieved a fair amount of critical success. However, there is little point denying that this is the song that kicked the door to ‘the big league’ wide open for us.”
Forsey also states that “Don’t You” was his greatest achievement. In 2018 he said, “It changed my life, and it seemed to me like I’d finally written a really good song. I loved everything about it. The basic groove was based on a song by the ska band Fun Boy Three’s version of ‘Our Lips Are Sealed.’… And then Simple Minds took the demo so much further—it had that great drum fill and Jim Kerr’s ‘Hey, hey, hey!’ vocal. That will probably be on my tombstone when I die.”
And to his credit, “Don’t You” continues to prove its lasting effect on popular culture. In the star-studded 2012 movie Pitch Perfect, “Don’t You” becomes an essential sound for the comedy. The final scene of this movie includes a remix of “Don’t You” meshed with Jessie J’s “Price Tag” and Pitbull’s “Give Me Everything.”
Overall, there’s no way we’ll forget about this song.