Up Where We Belong

Album: An Officer And A Gentleman Soundtrack (1982)
Charted: 7 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This was written for the movie An Officer And A Gentleman, which won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1983. The film is known for its closing scene, where Richard Gere, dressed in his Navy uniform, comes into the factory where Debra Winger is working, gets hot and heavy with her, then carries her out as her co-workers cheer. It's perhaps the most famous "sweeps her off her feet" archetype in film.

    The movie ends with a still frame of Winger in Gere's arms as the credits roll and "Up Where We Belong" plays.
  • The entire process - from idea to inclusion in the movie and release - took only 30 days. Will Jennings wrote the lyrics. He's responsible for the words to many famous songs, including "My Heart Will Go On," "Looks Like We Made It," and many of Steve Winwood's hits. Jennings told us:

    "Joel Sill, who was head of the music department of Paramount, asked me to consider writing a song for this film. I watched a rough cut, loved the film and I heard enough parts to make up a song. I asked Joel to send me the work track and I stitched together the verse, chorus, and bridge of the song and wrote the lyrics... Joel sent it to Stewart Levine, a fine music producer, and Stewart and I talked the song over on the phone and he went in to the studio and cut the hit track with Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes."
  • Will Jennings told us about coming up with the words to this song: "I am a working class person and these people in the film trying to make it, they are my people. The mountain imagery is about striving for the top - people often don't hear the lyric right - it is 'Where eagles cry, on a mountain high' instead of 'Where eagles fly, on a mountain high' - if you have ever heard an eagle cry, the power and beauty of it and all the wild freedom of it, you will get the distinction. As far as "All I know is the way I feel...' well, if you have nothing else to tell you what to do in your life, you have to go with the way you feel... if you are lost, you have only your instinct and passion to guide you."
  • Jack Nitzsche and Buffy Sainte-Marie wrote the score for the movie and the music for this song; they got married the following year. Nitzsche scored many films, including The Exorcist, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, and The Indian Runner. He also played piano on several Rolling Stones songs and did arrangements for many songs Phil Spector produced. Before he died of a heart attack in 2000, he had some problems with the law - he appeared on the TV show Cops after waving a gun at another guy.
  • In the climactic closing scene of An Officer And A Gentleman, the instrumental "Love Theme From 'An Officer And A Gentleman,'" performed by Lee Ritenour, plays. This theme recalls "Up Where We Belong," but is less obtrusive.

    The famous final scene has been spoofed many times in TV and movies, including on The Simpsons ("Life on the Fast Lane," 1990) when Homer carries Marge out of the nuclear power plant, and on Friends ("The One With the Chicken Pox," 1996) when Ross puts on a Navy uniform and tries to carry Rachel out of the coffee shop where she's working, only to have his plan foiled because she still needs to close up. In these spoofs, "Love Theme From 'An Officer And A Gentleman'" is typically used to evoke the film.
  • This won the Grammy for Best Pop Performance by Duo or Group With Vocal in 1983.
  • Joe Cocker toured England when this was climbing the charts there. He was born and grew up in England, but moved to the US in 1973.
  • Island Records boss Chris Blackwell liked to idea of Cocker recording the song with Warnes, but Cocker was on tour in the Pacific Northwest at the time. No problem: he simply flew to LA one afternoon, recorded the track with Warnes that evening, and flew back to resume the tour.
  • Jennifer Warnes, who hit US #6 in 1977 with "Right Time of the Night" and sang the Oscar-winning "It Goes Like It Goes" in the film Norma Rae, was suggested by her manager - a friend of director Taylor Hackford's - to sing the song, but Hackford rejected the idea because he felt she sounded "Too sweet." When the manager suggested a duet with Joe Cocker, Hackford was intrigued with the possibility. Says Jennings, "Joe Sample and I wrote 'I'm So Glad I'm Standing Here Today.' It was for The Crusaders' Standing Tall album, and Joe Cocker sang that. They were nominated for a Grammy, Best Inspirational Performance, and Joe sang it at the Grammys, just tore it up, and Taylor Hackford wanted to use him to sing the song from Officer And A Gentleman, so that's how he came into it." (Check out our interview with Will Jennings.)
  • Taylor Hackford, who directed An Officer And A Gentleman, had quite a run of #1 hits in his movies. His next film, Against All Odds, scored with the Phil Collins title track. White Nights followed, which gave us the chart-toppers "Say You Say Me" and "Separate Lives." Then in 1987, Los Lobos hit #1 with their version of the theme song to Hackford's movie La Bamba.
  • Warnes and Cocker stood next to each other when they recorded this in the studio, where they had a great chemistry that carried over to live performances. "Off stage, I never saw him," Warnes said in a 2018 Songfacts interview. "But on stage he understood exactly what we were doing. Beautiful. I miss that very much. I felt very alive being on stage with him, because it was always live and it was always free and open and caring. He wasn't going to step on my note and I wasn't going to step on his. We felt free to take chances. It was like being in Cirque du Soleil or something - a partner hoping they'll catch you. He always did and I always caught him. That's fun. That's the beauty of singing."
  • Buffy Sainte-Marie recorded this for the first time on her 1996 album, Up Where We Belong. She calls her rendition, which features Patrick Cockett playing guitar in a Hawaiian-style slack-key tuning, a "simpler, songwriter's version."
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 9

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer: http://www.oldiesmusic.com/news.htm
    John Robert "Joe" Cocker died Monday (December 22) of lung cancer at his Colorado home at the age of 70. Born in Sheffield, England, he formed a skiffle group there at the age of 16 and one year later began performing in British pubs- eventually opening for the Rolling Stones. By 1964 he earned a brief contract as a solo artist with Decca Records to little success. He continued on though, and in 1968 recorded a #1 tune in England with his version of the Beatles' "With A Little Help From My Friends" (#68- US). Joe was asked to perform at Woodstock and afterwards, "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" from his second album earned him his first American hit (#30-1970). Joe's "Mad Dogs And Englishmen" tour yielded a live album and a #7 single- a cover of the Box Tops' "The Letter" in 1970. Other hits included "Cry Me A River" (#11-1970), "Feeling Alright" (#33-1972) and the Billy Preston composition, "You Are So Beautiful" (#5) in 1975. His biggest American hit was a duet with Jennifer Warnes, "Up Where We Belong", from the movie "An Officer And A Gentleman" (#1-1982), which the two performed at the Academy Awards. Joe is remembered by many from John Belushi's imitations on television's "Saturday Night Live" and the two famously performed together on the show in 1976.
    May he R.I.P.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 15th 1982, "Up Where We Belong" by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart on position #89; and on October 31st, 1982 it peaked at #1 {for 3 weeks} and spent 23 weeks on the Top 100 {and for 7 of those 23weeks it was on the Top 10}...
    It reached #3 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart.
  • Ed from Lebanon, NhIn February, 2013 .... Joe Cocker was given a Lifetime Achievement award in Berlin, Germany - and the audience was treated to a surprise appearance by Jennifer Warnes, as they sang this duet, thirty years later. It is on YouTube, and you'll note their voices aren't quite as strong ... but the audience didn't mind.
  • Mark from Windermere, United KingdomWe just watched this film last night (seems to have become a compulsion to watch it every time it comes up on TV, so I've maybe seen it 10 times since the mid-80s). What I'd like to know is if the version at the end of the film is the same version as was distributed on the soundtrack? It seemed to me last night that Jennifer Warnes first couple of lines at the start of the tack in the end-credits is slightly late? Not in a bad way, in an artistic way. I don't hear that on the sountrack version. Peace, Mark.
  • Budoshi from Sandnessjøen, NorwayOne of the best Cocker-songs...:D His voice really comes into his own here..
  • Jimmy Hughes from Cumberland, MdThis song brings back a boatload of memories, some good and some bad. Mostly good though. I was engaged to this girl and this was gonna be our song but those plans fell through. Nobody's fault it was just one of those things. Whenever I hear this song I think of her and yeah it does make me a little sad but you have to go on with life ya know? Anyway I met another girl, got engaged, and got married. Guess what our song is? Yep you guessed right if you picked this song. Sorry for the long post but it's been a long day. Maryland beat Clemson (south carolina) by three points plus I've been drinking beer (Sam Adams and Miller Lite all afternoon). Yeah life is good...
  • Marcos from Salvador, BrazilHey, nobody puts Baby in a corner!
  • Mark from Lancaster, OhThe London Philharmonic has a splendid instrumental version of 'Up Where We Belong' (available on iTunes) that lets you appreciate the considerable musical complexities of the work.
  • Ydur from Knoxville, TnJennifer Warnes also duets in the movie theme for Dirty Dancing with Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers in "The Time of My Life". Decent song... lousy movie.
see more comments

Francis Rossi of Status QuoSongwriter Interviews

Doubt led to drive for Francis, who still isn't sure why one of Status Quo's biggest hits is so beloved.

QueenFact or Fiction

Scaramouch, a hoople and a superhero soundtrack - see if you can spot the real Queen stories.

Dan ReedSongwriter Interviews

Dan cracked the Top 40 with "Ritual," then went to India and spent 2 hours with the Dalai Lama.

Petula ClarkSongwriter Interviews

Petula talks about her hits "Downtown" and "Don't Sleep In The Subway," and explains her Michael Jackson connection.

Christmas SongsFact or Fiction

Rudolf, Bob Dylan and the Singing Dogs all show up in this Fact or Fiction for seasonal favorites.

Director Paul Rachman on "Hunger Strike," "Man in the Box," KissSong Writing

After cutting his teeth on hardcore punk videos, Paul defined the grunge look with his work on "Hunger Strike" and "Man in the Box."