Published on July 2, 2016
“(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” is a song composed by Franke Previte, John DeNicola, and Donald Markowitz. It was recorded by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, and used as the theme song for the 1987 film Dirty Dancing. The song has won a number of awards, including an Academy Award for “Best Original Song”, a Golden Globe Award for “Best Original Song” from Golden Globe, and a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
Singer-songwriter Previte was the lead singer of the band Franke and the Knockouts and had success with the song “Sweetheart” in 1981, but by 1986 was without a recording contract to any label. Around late 1986-early 1987, producer and head of Millennium Records Jimmy Ienner asked Previte about writing some music for “a little movie called Dirty Dancing”, but initially turned him down because he was still trying to get a record deal. But Ienner was persistent and got him to write several songs for the film (which also included “Hungry Eyes”, which was later recorded by singer Eric Carmen and also became a top 10 hit).
The music was written by John DeNicola and Don Markowitz, and Previte wrote the lyrics. After getting further approval, he created a demo for it and sang on it himself with singer Rachele Cappelli, showcasing how the harmonies were to be used, employing a “cold open”, or a slow buildup of the song to its finale. This demo was never used as the final cut in the film, but the final polished version with Warnes and Medley was used. However, since the final version was not ready by the filming of the finale (which was actually filmed first, due to the tight budget), Previte and Capelli’s much lighter and youthful version was used as a backing track so that the actors Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey and the dancers could have something to dance to (Swayze had later remarked it was his favorite version, even of all of the subsequent remakes since). The demo version finally appeared on the 1998 CD reissue of his 1981 album Franke and the Knockouts, but is only listed as “Bonus Track”.
The song was initially intended for Donna Summer and Joe Esposito, but it was turned down. Bill Medley was approached repeatedly by Jimmy Ienner for two months to do the recording, but he also turned it down because his daughter McKenna was due to be born and he promised his wife he would be there. After his daughter was born, Medley was approached again, as Jennifer Warnes had indicated she would record the song if she could do the duet with Medley. Medley then agreed to do the recording, and with the release of the film has become one of the most played songs on the radio and became a worldwide hit.
A song by Lionel Richie was initially planned to be the finale song for Dirty Dancing, but choreographer Kenny Ortega and his assistant Miranda Garrison (who also played Vivian in the film) selected “The Time of My Life” instead.