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This was featured in the movie Flashdance, which starred Jennifer Beals as a welder by day, dancer by night.
Sembello wrote this with his songwriting partner Dennis Matkosky, who got the idea when he saw the William Lustig movie Maniac, which is about a serial killer who stalks his victims in New York City. Sembello told us: "He came up with the original kernel of inspiration and to me with the basic idea and groove and I believe the temporary lyrics for the chorus he had were:
'He's a maniac, maniac that's for sure
He will kill your cat and nail him to the door'
That direction obviously wasn't going to work at which point the genius of Phil Ramone, producer of the soundtrack who had the vision to see the potential of the song, asked us to change it to the present concept of a girl possessed with the passion of a gift for dance. Without Phil it would not have happened."
Sembello added: "It was nominated for an academy award and was disqualified according to 'academy rules' because the song was changed from the original and was not originally written solely for the film, which pisses me off to this day." (Thanks for Michael Sembello for the info. To learn more, check out michaelsembello.com
This was accidentally included on a tape of Sembello's songs his wife sent to Paramount for consideration in Flashdance. The studio loved it and used it in the movie.
The dance scenes in the video (and the movie), were performed by body double Marine Jahan. It was a well kept secret that Jennifer Beals did not dance in the movie.
The video was the first to use nothing but scenes from the movie. It started a movie/music cross-promotion trend (Pretty Woman, Dirty Dancing, etc.).
This was commonly used in aerobics classes, which was a big trend at the time.
In 2007, this was used in commercials for Kia cars, which show a Kia salesman doing a similar dance. The idea is that he's making great deals like a Maniac. (thanks, MusicianJohnPaul - Bay Area, CA)