Sonny Rollins loved the movies

During the BFI London Film Festival we thought you’d enjoy this piece with saxophonist Sonny Rollins talking about his favourite movie soundtracks.

During the BFI London Film Festival we thought you’d enjoy this blog piece from 2011. Austin, Texas based writer and regular contributor to New York Magazine Eric Benson spoke with the great American saxophonist Sonny Rollins about his favourite movie soundtracks. Rollins was hugely influenced by both musical stage shows and the movies and often recorded his own reinterpretations of seemingly unhip songs. But he was unashamedly fond of all popular music. 

In 2012, on the 55th anniversary of his Blue Note Records recording ‘Newk’s Time’, Rollins told the label, “I heard a lot of people on the radio. And in those days, the movies were sort of what television is today, but it wasn't in your home, so you had to go to the movie shows. I liked people like Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong. I liked Frank Sinatra — I saw some of those movies. Martha Raye, I think I first saw her singing "I'm An Old Cowhand" from my Way Out West album. I liked Jimmy Durante, anybody that was a performer. That's who influenced me. I liked people like Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. I liked Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. So this is my background. I was born in Harlem, and people have to understand that just because you're black and you're born in Harlem doesn't mean that you just like black music. No, I like music, and in America, I was exposed to a lot of music in my household, and I listened to all of it. It's all who I am.”

Talking with Eric Benson Sonny said, “When I was a little boy, there was a movie house right across the street from where we lived, the Lincoln Theater on 135th Street (NYC). My parents took me over there and they had this picture, Swing Time. There’s so much about that film, those great songs. "The Way You Look Tonight," of course, which I recorded and many other people recorded. I had the privilege of recording that with Coleman Hawkins. I had the privilege of recording that with Thelonious Monk. So that song stayed with me. And there were other songs in that movie—"Pick Yourself Up, Start Right Over Again," where they dance to it. And all through my life, I’ve remembered the scene with the song “A Fine Romance,” where Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire are up in the country in the snow.”

Read Eric Benson’s blog here.

Sonny Rollins talks about how the movies influenced his music:

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