Today the one and only Clint Eastwood turns 81 years old, and he can still kick your ass. According to the Internet Movie Database, the octogenarian is currently in post-production of his next film, J. Edgar, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the late cross-dressing FBI director.
Because he has won every acting and directing award that matters, Eastwood's musical talents tend to get overlooked. But many of his characters who don't shoot first and ask questions later, and even a few who do like Frank Horrigan in In the Line of Fire, are as serious about music (especially jazz) as Eastwood himself, who has composed his own scores for recent works such as Mystic River, Changeling and Hereafter.
To say happy birthday, Rocks Off spent the afternoon combing through Eastwood's filmography on IMDB and Amazon. For this particular dead pool, we limited our choices to commercially released soundtracks of pop, jazz and country songs. Eastwood's fruitful associations with some of Hollywood's leading composers like Lalo Schifirin (Dirty Harry), Jerry Fielding (The Outlaw Josey Wales), Lennie Niehaus (Unforgiven) and his son Kyle (Letters From Iwo Jima) will have to wait until another birthday.
5. Every Which Way But Loose (1978): The first of Eastwood's two movies co-starring Clyde the Orangutan, Every Which Way gets the nod over 1980 sequel Any Which Way You Can because it has a pair of five-star country classics apiece from Mel Tillis ("Coca-Cola Cowboy," "Send Me Down To Tucson") and Charlie Rich ("Behind Closed Doors," "When I Get Home"), plus Hank Thompson & the Brazos Valley Boys' "Six Pack To Go." And because Eastwood's WTF duet with Ray Charles, "Beers To You," isn't on it.
4. The Bridges of Madison County (1995): Eastwood's adaptation of Robert James Waller's megaselling Iron-John-in-Iowa novel is dominated by the gentle, stardusted crooning of Dinah Washington ("Blue Gardenia," "I'll Close My Eyes") and Johnny Hartman ("It Was Almost Like a Song," "For All We Know"), making it an ideal backdrop for some mature Midwestern love in the afternoon.
3. Space Cowboys (2000): The surprisingly well-curated soundtrack tosses out the Sinatra, *NSync and Clay Walker from Eastwood's partially Clear Lake-filmed ode to NASA in favor of Willie Nelson's age-appropriate covers of Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years" and Jimmy Durante's "Young at Heart." Pianist Brad Mehldau and saxophonist Joshua Redman each contribute three jazz takes of thematically suitable songs - Neil Young's "Old Man," The Who's "My Generation," Ray Charles' "Hit the Road Jack" - but Nashville Patsy-come-lately Mandy Barnett steals the show with a gorgeous rendition of "I Only Have Eyes For You."
2. Honkytonk Man (1982): Rocks Off has not seen this movie, starring Eastwood as a down-and-out troubador (based on singing brakeman Jimmie Rodgers, no less) and unlikely mentor to son Kyle, an oversight we will be correcting as soon as possible. It features Texas swing legend Johnny Gimble as his old boss Bob Wills, plus Ray Price, Porter Wagoner and Marty Robbins in walk-on roles. All four of them and John Anderson show up on the soundtrack - Price singing Texas' unofficial national anthem, "San Antonio Rose" - so who cares if Clint himself can't really sing?
1. A Perfect World (1993): To accompany his chase-across-Texas movie set in the months before the JFK assassination, Eastwood nearly came up with a perfect soundtrack: Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys' "Ida Red," Johnny Cash's "I Guess Things Happen That Way," George Hamilton IV's "Abilene," Hank Locklin's "Please Help Me, I'm Falling" and Don Gibson's "Sea of Heartbreak," to name a few. Since Roy Orbison had already passed on, Chris Isaak doesn't make a bad substitute at all on "Dark Moon" and "The Little Cloud That Cried."
FIVE MORE EASTWOOD SOUNDTRACK STANDOUTS
Jamie Cullum, "Gran Torino"* - Gran Torino, 2008
Diana Krall, "Why Should I Care?"* - True Crime, 2002
Guns N' Roses, "Welcome To the Jungle" - The Dead Pool, 1988
Roberta Flack, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" - Play Misty For Me, 1971
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The Lead, "Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel" - Coogan's Bluff (Japanese version), 1968
* Song co-written by Eastwood