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Classic Film in Contemporary Music

Who can forget Madonna's 80s classic pop hit, "Vogue"? In the song's rap section, Madonna rounds off a list of the most iconic personalities and faces including: Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Jo DiMaggio, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Grace Kelly, Jean Harlow, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Rita Hayworth, Lauren Bacall, Katherine Hepburn, Lana Turner and Bette Davis. But "Vogue" is not the only song that has been inspired or has referenced to classic film and good ol' Hollywood in contemporary music.

In the 80s, there were a few songs beside "Vogue" that mentioned classic film stars and Hollywood. Like "Vogue," Billy Joel released "We Didn't Start The Fire", featuring monumental events, people and places that have changed the world forever. Some of those mentioned are related to Hollywood and pop culture including - Doris Day, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Elvis Presley, Grace Kelly, Brigditte Bardot, "Ben-Hur" (1959), "Psycho" (1960) and "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962).

Actress Bette Davis is used in Kim Carnes' song "Bette Davis Eyes" about a seductive woman. But Bette Davis is not the only classic film actress mentioned in the song, so is Jean Harlow and Greta Garbo. At the time of the song's release Davis herself admitted being a fan of the song and was grateful for the inclusion in the song, for making her "a part of modern times." When Davis passed away in 1989, Voice of America used the song in announcing the actress's death.

While writing "The White Stripes" fifth album, "Get Behind Me Satan", Pete White wrote two songs in reference to the beautiful "Gilda" star, actress Rita Hayworth. In one of the album's tracks, "Take, Take, Take", Rita Hayworth makes a ghostly, surprise appearance in a seedy bar and in the other track "White Moon". In an interview for the album, when asked about his fixation on Rita Hayworth, White's response was, "Rita Hayworth became an all-encompassing metaphor for everything I was thinking about while making the album."

The highly creative Lady Gaga has used many references to classic films in her songs. In her hit love song "Bad Romance", a track off of "The Fame Monster" album, Gaga refers to Hitchcock films in one verse - "I want your psycho / your vertigo schtick / want you my rear window / baby its sick." The lyrics are supposed to drive the song's message about loving and accepting everything - ugly or pretty - about the person you love. In her intimate, piano-composed song "Speechless", where she wrote about her father's health, she describes him with "James Dean glossy eyes." On the same album, Lady Gaga makes her own mention to Marilyn Monroe by name in her song, "Dance in the Dark" which is supposed to be a song about insecurity. Gaga referred to the track as her "Fear of Self Monster" song. On her most recent album, "Born This Way", Gaga was inspired to write about Marilyn Monroe's affair with President John F. Kennedy in her song, "Government Hooker."

In fact, no one has been more referenced or has inspired more music than the sex symbol and ethereal woman who was known as Marilyn Monroe. Merely 11 years after her death, the great Elton John wrote the song "Candle In The Wind" inspired by the actress's fragile life and personality. When Princess Diana passed away in 1997, Elton John rewrote the song in tribute to Princess Diana's memory. There is almost 40 songs that feature references or have been composed about Marilyn Monroe.

The legacy of classic film and old Hollywood has done the impossible, which has been to cross over from film to music, completely dominating the sphere of pop culture by truly living forever through both artistic forms of expression.

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