Born on the Fourth of July (John Williams)
Born on the Fourth of July was the second film in Oliver Stone’s Vietnam trilogy, following Platoon in 1986. Released in 1989 to critical acclaim, Stone won his second Oscar for Best Director (the first having come two years earlier for Platoon), and Tom Cruise would give the best performance of his entire career, although the film itself was robbed of the Oscar for Best Picture by Driving Miss Daisy. The film was also the first of three collaborations between Stone and composer John Williams, who would also collaborate on JFK (1991) and Nixon (1995). There is no doubt that Born on the Fourth of July is the best of them, for the musical result of the later collaborations did certainly not live up to the high standards that Williams’ score to this film set. Williams was also robbed of an Oscar for the film (it wasn’t the best of 1989, but it was the best of those that were nominated) by Alan Menken’s The Little Mermaid, but this score stands as one of his best efforts of the 80′s.
The unfortunate thing about the score is its album release, which contains only 25 minutes of Williams’ original score, whilst the rest is reserved for various songs. Conveniently, the score doesn’t start right until the end, so just skip to track nine and start there.
Although the lack of original score on the album is somewhat disappointing, the 25 minutes that is included contains some of the most beautiful, moving, and effective music that Williams has ever written. The first cue, “Prologue”, features Tim Morrison performing an excellent trumpet solo of the score’s main solo theme. In the next cue “The Early Days, Massapequa”, features low-key strings to a brilliant effect, along with more excellent trumpet solos from Morrison, performing the scores secondary theme, which ranks among the best Williams has ever written. The themes disappear when the main character is shot, to be replaced with a series of electronic effects in the cue “The Shooting of Wilson”, which is unquestionably some of the most effective writing Williams has ever done.
A simply beautiful suite of the main themes for the film conclude the album. Williams doubles the string section of the orchestra for maximum effect, and it cannot be denied that the effect it produces is incredibly moving, with the main themes heard in their fully-fledged form, with Morrison’s wonderful trumpet performances, – it couldn’t fail to move anybody.
Hopefully one day this score will be given the release it deserves, but in the meantime, the MCA Records album is well worth purchasing simply for the music that it offers. It’s only 25 minutes, but it’s 25 minutes of some of Williams’ finest music, and isn’t to be missed. One of Williams’ best scores of the 80′s, and one of the best of 1989.
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1 – A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall Edie Brickell
2 – Born on the Bayou The Broken Homes
3 – Brown Eyed Girl Van Morrison
4 – American Pie Don McLean
5 – My Girl The Temptations
6 – Soldier Boy The Shirelles
7 – Venus Frankie Avalon
8 – Moon River Henry Mancini
9 – Prologue
10 – The Early Days, Massapequa, 1957
11 – The Shooting of Wilson
12 – Cua Viet River, Vietnam, 1968
13 – Homecoming
14 – Born on the Fourth of July
Composed, Conducted & Produced by John Williams
Trumpet Solos by Tim Morrison
Academy Award for Best Original Score (nominated)
Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score (nominated)
Contains a track listing and credits, but no information about the score or film.
All artwork and images are Copyright (C) MCA Records.