This was co-written by Franke Previte of Franke And The Knockouts, who hit #10 with "Sweetheart" in 1981. It was featured in the climactic scene of the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. Previte recalls finding out from Swayze how important his demo of the song was to the film: "He told me that the Dirty Dancing dance finale scene was actually shot to my original demo of '(I've Had) The Time Of My Life.' I had performed the song with my duet partner, Rachele Cappelli. Patrick explained that the movie was filmed out of sequence and the finale scene was the first thing they shot. And, there was a lot riding on getting it right. He said it was crucial that he, Jennifer and the rest of the cast filming that scene develop an immediate camaraderie and that the demo was a big part in helping them do just that. The film's most memorable scene really had been filmed to our demo of '(I've Had) The Time Of My Life.'"
Watching that scene for the first time, Previte says, "My feelings were over the top. What can I say? Chills."
The Dirty Dancing soundtrack was produced by Jimmy Ienner, who thought of Franke Previte when he needed songs for the movie. Previte told us: "I received a call from Jimmy Ienner, had had been head of Millennium Records, my label with Franke and the Knockouts. Jimmy asked me to write a song for this little movie called Dirty Dancing. I told him I didn't have the time and he said, 'Make time. This could change your life.'"
Franke's former bandmate John DeNicola and his friend Don Marowitz came up with the music for the song. Says Previte, "I received a track from John and Donny and I wrote the lyric and melody for the chorus in the car while I was driving along the Garden State Parkway, going to a studio session for another song."
Most pop songs don't start with the chorus, but this song had to fit some specific criteria for the movie: it had to start slow, finish fast, and have a mambo beat. Previte added in our interview: "The scene was seven minutes long. They needed the song to be just as long. So we started the track with the chorus up front in half time to create a slow mood before the downbeat of the verse."
When this was completed, Previte and DeNicola finished "Hungry Eyes
," a song originally planned for the Previte solo LP, but redirected to the Dirty Dancing
Early on, a Lionel Richie song was slated for the big dance scene in the movie, but the film's choreographer, Kenny Ortega, bumped it in favor of "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life." Says Previte, "It was the last song on the last tape submitted on the last day for the movie's final scene. But, everyone loved it!"
When he was told that Ienner was planning to have Bill Medley sing this, Previte had mixed emotions. He wanted to sing it himself in the movie, but Medley, who was a member of The Righteous Brothers, was one of his all-time favorite singers. Previte didn't get a chance to sing "Hungry Eyes" in the movie, either - it was recorded by Eric Carmen and became his first Top 5 hit in 12 years.
Medley wasn't interested in recording a soundtrack single after having a duet with Gladys Knight, "Loving on Borrowed Time," (from Sylvester Stallone's Cobra
), bomb. It also didn't help that Medley thought the title of the film sounded "like a bad porno movie."
Two months of constant pressure from Ienner didn't change his mind until a scheduled recording session was moved from New York to Los Angeles and Jennifer Warnes agreed to sing in the session. Medley was a huge Warnes fan, which swayed his decision, as did circumstance. The Righteous Brother explained in our 2014 interview
: "My wife was expecting my child, our baby McKenna, and I promised her I would be there, so I turned it down for three months. And then Paula had our child.
Thank God for Jimmy Ienner. He stayed on me and he called and he said, 'Listen, Jennifer Warnes wants to do it if she can do it with you.' So I talked to Jennifer and she said, 'Yeah, let's go do it.'"
The B-side of the single was a re-release of Mickey & Sylvia's "Love Is Strange
" (#11 in 1957), which was also used in Dirty Dancing
This hit the Top 10 twice in the UK - first in 1987 when Dirty Dancing was released in theaters, and again in 1990 after the movie was shown on TV (it went to #8 this time).
Jennifer Warnes compared singing with Bill Medley to dancing with Fred Astaire. While Bill Medley is best known for being one half of the Righteous Brothers, Warnes also has experienced her biggest success with duets. In addition to this song, she had another American chart topper in 1982 with "Up Where We Belong
," a duet with Joe Cocker from the An Officer And A Gentleman
soundtrack. She also had an American solo hit in 1977 with "Right Time Of The Night
This won the 1987 Grammy award for Best Vocal Performance by a Duo and an Oscar for Best Film Song.
The Dirty Dancing soundtrack stayed at #1 on the Billboard charts for 18 straight weeks and has sold over 48 million copies worldwide.
This was sung by Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee for their final duet during the 2006 season of American Idol.
On September 8, 2010, the original demo of this song, along with a remix by producer Michael Lloyd, was released as digital files in an effort to raise money for the Patrick Swayze Pancreas Cancer Resarch Foundation at Stanford University.
The demo's release coincided with superstar pop group Black Eyed Peas basing their single "The Time (The Dirty Bit)
" around a sample of this song. It also ran parallel with the re-emergence of Jennifer Grey as a heavily favored contestant on ABC's Dancing With The Stars
, which she ended up winning. "What amazes me most is the timing," said Previte. "As we've started working to fight cancer in Patrick's memory through the release of the original demos, first it was Jennifer coming back into the public spotlight in a big way on TV, and now the Black Eyed Peas come along and cover it – all in a matter of weeks. The Black Eyed Peas bring a whole new level awareness to our charity efforts that we couldn't have dreamed of in a million years.
'(I've Had) The Time of My Life' really is the song that has nine lives. To have a group like the Peas do it gives it Lives 10, 11 and 12. It just reconfirms to me that the song is cross-generational. The song has now crossed over to the next generation in a huge way. There couldn't be any group, cooler, edgier, and more hip than the Black Eyed Peas to record it."
Dianna Agron (Quinn) and Chord Overstreet (Sam) performed this song on the TV show Glee on November 30, 2010, the same day the Black Eyed Peas album The Beginning, containing "The Time (The Dirty Bit)" was released. Between Glee, The Peas, and Jennifer Grey's victory, this song enjoyed a massive resurgence, prompting the songwriter Franke Previte to organize a contest called "Dancing With The Demos," where people could perform their own dance sequences to the song for a chance to win a stay at the two resorts in North Carolina and Virginia that were the primary filming locations of Dirty Dancing.
In the 2011 movie Crazy, Stupid, Love., a tipsy Emma Stone ends up in the apartment of her lothario, Ryan Gosling. He's going to be a gentleman, but she wants his "big move," which he explains is the lift from Dirty Dancing. Sure enough, she finds it irresistible; he puts the song on and when she jumps into his arms, he gives her the full Swayze, sealing the deal.
In 2015, this was used in a popular UnitedHealthcare commercial
called "Our Song" where the song comes on the radio and a married couple decide to do the Swayze/Grey lift from Dirty Dancing
. It goes horribly wrong, and they end up chatting with a doctor to get treatment for their injuries.
During the Super Bowl in 2018, the NFL ran a spot where this song plays while Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants re-create the Dirty Dancing scene as a touchdown celebration. Their team had little to celebrate, having won just three games that season, while two of their rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots, squared off in the big game.
In a 2018 Songfacts interview with Jennifer Warnes
, she said: "I think it was an accident that just blossomed. Nobody thought it would be this huge. It was just a surprise.
And we did our best, Bill and I. The movie was great - still popular and always will be. But I've thought about it and I wondered why the whole world loves it so much and I think the answer is because it's real joyful. If you take the joy out of that song, it's not a hit.
That's why the lift is so important, and that's why the guys in the NFL did the lift: because there's an unexplainable joy in the song. I don't know where you can pinpoint the actual moment, but if you take the joy out of that song, it's not that great."