This was the first of songwriter Diane Warren's many Top 10 hits that she wrote entirely herself. She'd previously adapted the original version of "Solitaire" by French singer-songwriter Martine Clemenceau for Laura Branigan, and had done mostly ballads to this point. Warren says despite this composition, she has very little rhythm herself.
This was the biggest hit for the family group DeBarge, who on this track were fronted by the falsetto-voiced El DeBarge, who would later have solo success with the hits "Who's Johnny" (#3 US, 1986) and another Diane Warren penned song, "The Heart Is Not So Smart" (#75 US, 1986). On the Rhythm Of The Night album, El was joined by his sister Bunny and brothers James (who was briefly married to Janet Jackson in 1984), Marty and Randy.
Warren penned this song for the 1985 Motown-produced martial arts movie The Last Dragon, which starred the Prince ingenue Vanity in the female lead. Motown head Berry Gordy was the executive producer of the film, and DeBarge were signed to his Gordy label.
Warren had the song in the works when she got the call to write a song for the film. She made a few tweaks, recorded a demo with a singer named Tommy Funderburk, and submitted "Rhythm Of The Night" for the soundtrack. It was accepted for the film and used in the trailer as well. The film took in over $25 million at the box office, which was clearly a lot more than it cost to make.
This song was produced by Richard Perry ("Without You
," "Slow Hand
"). Perry is one the most successful producers in music history and this was the sixth Top 10 single he'd helmed within the space of a year.
The street party sounds overdubbed onto the record included contributions from members of the DeBarge group. This idea was cribbed from the 1983 Lionel Richie song, "All Night Long (All Night)
Diane Warren used a drum machine to write this song, but it was recorded with live musicians at the insistence of producer Richard Perry.
The song makes an appearance in the 2001 movie Moulin Rouge, where it is used in a dance sequence.
The video was directed by Peter Heath, who also did "The Look
" for Roxette and "Some Like It Hot
" for The Power Station. Filled with colorful dance scenes, it was very popular on MTV.