Top 10 Oscar Winning Musicians
by Justin Trudell
Some of us think of an Oscar winning musician as the kind of stuff John Williams makes for Star Wars, but it’s surprisingly more contemporary than that. We all remember the big damn deal it was for Eminem to win his Oscar for 8 Mile and how strange it seemed to have him show up on films biggest night. He wasn’t the only mainstream Oscar winning musician. We ranked the our Top Ten Oscar Winning Musicians.
10. David Byrne – The Last Emperor
It’s no “Burning Down the House.” In fact, it’s nothing like his pop hits from the 1980s group he fronted, The Talking Heads. But Byrne showed his chops and musical talent when he won the Oscar in 1987 for writing the score to some movie called “The Last Emperor“. I never liked The Talking Heads, and I have never heard of this movie, but the new-wave master can’t be ignored for his innovation.
9. Bret McKenzie – Man or Muppet
“The guy from Flight of the Conchords? Not Jemaine? The other guy? Ohhhhh, I see…he’s still alive?” – What you were thinking (circa just now)
One of the conchords from Flight of the Conchords won an Oscar for Best Original Song for his contributions to The Muppets movie in 2012. That’s insane to think about. From his background with the comedy Bret McKinzie started in with Jemaine Clement, he had the perfect opportunity to write this somewhat silly song and join in as an Oscar winning musician.
8. Trent Reznor – The Social Network
The Social Network score was pretty great and pretty errie, much like Trent Reznor. The Nine Inch Nails frontman became an Oscar winning musician when he wrote this electronic heavy score for the surprisingly entertaining The Social Network. The academy really “Liked” this score…(crickets). I’ll let myself out on that joke.
7. Elton John – Can You Feel the Love Tonight
Who could’ve known the 1994 animated movie The Lion King would be such a fucking tearjerker? Between Elton John’s powerful ballad “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” the circle of life and (spoiler) when Mufasa dies like 10 minutes into the movie, it was getting VERY dusty in the theater for a young me. Come on Disney, I saw the previews of dancing and singing “Hakuna Matata,” I thought this would be fun.
6. Eminem – Lose Yourself
Still hard to believe. Much to our disappointment, Eminem didn’t actually show up to give an acceptance speech when he won. Keep it real! It’s an amazing song that you have all had on 90% of your workout mixes since it came out. It’s a bit like cheating for this one, since he wrote and starred in his own movie about a rapper in Detroit trying to make it. A role he was born to play with his trademark blank stare for 90 minutes without cracking a smile. He does join the elite company as an Oscar winning musician, I’m sure he’s thrilled.
5. Bob Dylan – Things Have Changed
Bobby Dylan FTW! I love this song. Side note: Dylan fascinates me. On one hand, it seems like he hates being in the limelight or speaking to anyone, then all the sudden he pops up on an IBM commercial having a conversation with a talking computer. Which is why I was surprised to find out he won an Oscar for his song “Things Have Changed” from the movie “Wonder Boys.”
4. The Beatles – Let It Be
This feels like cheating, which is why they are so far down. In 1970, John, Paul, George and Ringo won an Oscar for their score in the documentary Let It Be. How unfair to the rest of the nominees to have The Beatles basically release an album that is somehow eligible for an Oscar. I would be pissed if I was nominated in the category with them. Although, looking at the list of nominees, I am pretty sure the Academy got this right.
3. Prince – Purple Rain
Again, this feels like cheating. He’s a legend, probably the greatest guitar player alive, and starred in and wrote the entire score for Purple Rain. Tough to deny it, that is a pretty amazing score. Would it surprise anyone if Prince wrote this album with no intention of making a movie, then just said, “You know what? I want to win an Oscar. Let’s start filming a movie tomorrow.”? He can do whatever he wants and succeed.
2. Adele – Skyfall
That voice tho. As we wrote earlier this week, Skyfall was the best James Bond theme of all time, and that list has some heavy-weights of music on it. Adele became an Oscar winning musician well before we had people doing covers of her massive hit, “Hello.” One of the few times in James Bond history that the main theme and movie were both great. Also, Adele is the rare Oscar winning musician on our list still on the upswing of her career.
1. Bruce Springsteen – Streets Of Philadelphia
I often forget Bruce won an Oscar for his song in the 1993 movie “Philadelphia.” It’s classic Bruce, kind of mumbling through his lyrics about hardships, poverty and life being generally miserable. Perfect for a rather depressing movie. Everything about “Philadelphia” was just so uplifting! Anyways, it’s a great song, and not even in my personal top 20 favorite Springsteen songs. It just goes to show how great of a musician Bruce Springsteen is and why is the best Oscar winning musician.