Don’t You (Forget About Me): Remembering John Hughes’ Musical Legacy

John Hughes passed away yesterday after suffering a heart attack while walking with his family in New York City. He was 59. Hughes wrote and directed a number of great movies, but the ones that hit young outsider me (and tons of others) most were those punk or new wave or geeky or whatever teen-as-hero ’80s flicks: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, Some Kind Of Wonderful, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, etc. (Weird Science was pretty great, too.) We’re celebrating a filmmaker not just because of the music that showed up in his films, but because Hughes had a hand in the sounds selected. In a clip from 1986 that MTV posted, he says:

To have a song work for the movie, it can’t just be written apart and shoved in … It’s got to come out of the action. It’s got to talk about the characters, not the story, it has to augment that action … I don’t look at the album as a marketing tool, because I think if you do that then you’re going to fail … It’s really betraying the music. When I approach a band, I want to respect them and be respectful of their music. I’m not gonna say, ‘Look, you guys are real hot so we’ll stick you in the movie and we’ll get it in all these stores and all these stations.’ That isn’t right.

Since they dealt with bummed teenagers inhabiting an underground/youth subcultures and he carefully selected songs to represent romantic and sad epiphanies, Hughes’ best movies contained unforgettable music moments: Pretty In Pink’s “If You Leave” prom, Cameron Frye’s connection to Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jatte” overlapping with Dream Academy’s take on “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want,” the Thompson Twins at the close of Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club’s dance sequence and “Don’t You (Forget About Me)“…

In a year that M83 nodded to Hughes via Saturdays = Youth’s album art, videos, and sentiments and a Phoenix fan paid homage to a pop aesthethic via their “Lisztomania” Brat Pack Mashup, it’s clear Hughes struck cords (and chords) with folks from all (not necessarily French) corners. Some of those cords will make you cry. Another example of Hughes’ legacy? The Yello one-hit wonder used so iconically in Ferris Bueller, over the next 20 years it became the go-to song for TV/movies/commercials to represent ’80s + shenanigans. But instead of rambling on about how well certain songs worked with Hughes’ words/images or listening all his accomplishments, here’s a selection of some of our favorites:

The Pretty In Pink trailer:

Psychedelic Furs’ “Pretty In Pink” video:

The “Lisztomania” mashup:

And, to avoid the overly sentimental, this scene seems like a better ending than anything:

Speaking of Bueller and large crowds of people singing together in Chicago — the setting of so many of his films and favorite record stores — won’t be surprised if there are a few tributes at Lollapalooza this weekend. Amrit’s getting soaked on the grounds there as we speak, so keep an eye on Twitter for any word.

Tags: John Hughes