The Stories Behind the Soundtrack: ‘Footloose’

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

There’s no way around it—the soundtrack for the original movie Footloose is stacked.

You’ve got the iconic title track by Kenny Loggins, “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” by Deniece Williams, and the Bonnie Tyler song “Holding out for a Hero.” 

Then there’s “Almost Paradise” by Mike Reno and Ann Wilson, “Dancing in the Sheets” by Shalamar, “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man)” by Loggins, “Somebody’s Eyes” by Karla Bonoff, “The Girl Gets Around” by Sammy Hagar, and “Never.” 

All in all, there was a total of nine songs written for the soundtrack, and six of the nine were Top 40 U.S. hits. Two of them also went number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

How did that happen? What was the vision for the kick-off-your-shoes, rebellious teen drama? Well, to sum it all up neatly, the catalyst for the movie and music was songwriter/screenwriter Dean Pitchford.

Below we’ll dive into Footloose’s lyrical mastermind and some of the heavy-hitting tracks from the film. 

Dean Pitchford and a small town inspiration 

Pitchford started his career as a Broadway actor in the show Pippin in 1975. And while he was toe-tapping on stage, Pitchford was also writing. For instance, he collaborated on three songs for the 1980 film Fame, one of which—the title song—became a multi-platinum song for Irene Cara. 

Shortly after his early writing success, Pitchford was signed as a songwriter by Warner Brothers Publishing. It was there that the idea for Footloose crept into reality. 

For Footloose, Pitchford was inspired by a news story on Elmore City, Oklahoma. It was a small town that previously maintained a law against dancing in an attempt to discourage heavy drinking. After researching the city—he even reportedly spent some time there for boots-on-the-ground observation—Pitchford built out the script and songs for Footloose. Paramount eventually picked up the screenplay and would make a staggering $80 million from ticket sales. Not too shabby. 

Kenny Loggins and Deniece Williams cut loose 

Often known as The King of the Movie Soundtrack, Loggins contributed two songs to the Footloose soundtrack: “Footloose” and “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man).” 

Pitchford and Loggins wrote the majority of “Footloose” together in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, while Loggins was there for a performance. And as Pitchford tells it, both of the songwriters were recovering from ailments when writing the track, but their vision for the track persisted. (Pitchford was battling strep throat and Loggins nursing a broken rib from a fall at an earlier show.) Loggins also gave Pitchford the melody for “I’m Free” before the screenwriter jetted back home.

Loggins’s abilities and reputation ultimately solidified the soundtrack’s success. “Footloose” was released ahead of the album, and it was an immediate fan favorite. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s carefree, upbeat, and easily recognizable. “Footloose” later would become a number one hit, and rightfully so. 

And in terms of Deniece Williams’ contribution to the soundtrack, it was a no-brainer for Pitchford. Williams had already released two R&B hits, “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” and “It’s Gonna Take A Miracle.” Her soulful sound added a layer of sonic sophistication to the soundtrack. Williams also related to the plot of Footloose to some degree after growing up in a small, religious town herself.

Williams’ recording of “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” for the Footloose soundtrack would follow Loggins’ lead and top the charts as well.

Footloose legacy 

The Footloose songs and soundtrack garnered a myriad of accolades across several different award shows. The songs from the movie became so popular that they eventually became bigger than the movie they soundtracked. 

In 1998 a re-release of the soundtrack included four new songs: “Bang Your Head (Metal Health)” by Quiet Riot, “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp, “Waiting for a Girl Like You” by Foreigner, and the remix of “Dancing in the Sheets.” In 2011, Blake Shelton covered “Footloose” for the remake of the movie.

I’m turning it loose, footloose
Kick off your Sunday shoes

Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

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