Born Free

Album: Born Free soundtrack (1966)
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  • Born Free is the biography of Elsa the lioness. This book was written by Joy Adamson (1910-80), the wife of George Adamson (1906-89), who worked as a game warden in Kenya and who later became one of the founders of the modern wildlife conservation movement. The couple met and married while she was on safari; George was Joy's third husband.

    In 1956, George Adamson shot and killed a lioness as it attacked him; it was only afterwards that he realized the cat was protecting her cubs. Adamson took them home with him; two were later sent to a zoo, but the third, Elsa, was raised by the couple as a domestic pet. She was eventually released into the wild, but returned to her mistress with three cubs in tow.

    Joy published Elsa's story in 1960, and the semi-documentary type film featuring Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers was released in 1966. Both the Adamsons suffered violent deaths: Joy was murdered by a former employee, and George was shot dead by poachers.
  • The theme song for the film was commissioned from composer John Barry (of James Bond fame) and lyricist Don Black. As well as becoming a minor hit for Monro, it won the 1966 Academy Award for Best Original Song. It was also a hit for Roger Williams.
  • The sheet music was published by Chappell of London at 20p, copyright 1966 by Screen Gems - Columbia Music, New York. It lists the following performers in order:

    John Barry on United Artists
    Ray Conniff on CBS
    Mantovani on Decca
    Matt Monro on Parlophone
    Frank Sinatra on Reprise
    Andy Williams on CBS
    Nelson Riddle on EMI
    James Last on Polydor. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 3
  • In the US the most successful version was by pianist Roger Williams, who reached #7 in 1966 with his cover. Williams' other claim to fame was his 1956 song "Autumn Leaves," which is the only piano instrumental ever to reach #1 on the Billboard pop charts.
  • In 1968 Cleveland soul group The Hesitations reached #38 in the US with their version. In the same month that this reached the Top 40, lead singer George "King" Scott was accidentally killed by a bullet from a gun owned by tenor Fred Deal.
  • In the UK comedian Vic Reeves reached #6 in 1991 with his version credited to Vic Reeves & The Roman Numerals. Surprisingly this was the first (and to date only) time that this standard has charted in the UK.
  • This was the first British song ever to win the Best Song Oscar. Barry also won the Academy Award for the Best Original Music Score for Born Free. Barry has since won three more Oscars for Best Original Music Scores for The Lion In Winter, Out of Africa and Dances with Wolves.
  • Lyricist/librettist Don Black has penned many major hits in his 50-year career including major pop hits such as Michael Jackson's " Ben," and Hot Chocolate's "I'll Put You Together Again." Black has also written numerous movie themes including "To Sir With Love," "Diamonds Are Forever" and "On Days Like These" (for The Italian Job). He also collaborated with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber on such hit musicals as Tell Me on a Sunday, Sunset Boulevard and the Aspects of Love song cycle.
  • This was originally nearly cut from the Born Free film. Don Black explained to the Sunday Times August 10, 2008: "The film was about lions, so the producers were determined that the song should be all about lions. I argued that it had to be about freedom. When you write a lyric, you look for the universal theme."
  • At one stage the song was removed from the film, and it was only put back in when it began to get some radio play. One of the producers who had argued against the song came up to Black at the Academy Awards, just after he'd won his Oscar. Black told the Sunday Times: "He put his arm round my shoulder and said, 'Well, it does grow on you?'"

Comments: 3

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 21st 1966, "Born Free" by Roger Williams entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #99; and on December 11th, 1966 it peaked at #7 {for 3 weeks} and spent 21 weeks on the Top 100..
    On August 29th, 1966 it reached #1 {for 6 non-consecutive weeks} on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart...
    As already stated, the Hesitations, who were fellow Kapp Records label mates of Roger Williams, released a covered version of the song in 1968, their version peaked at #38 {for 2 weeks...
    Between 1955 and 1969 Mr. Williams had twenty-two Top 100 records; with three making the Top 10, his other two Top 10 records were "Autumn Leaves" {#1 for 4 weeks in 1955} and "Near You" {#10 in 1958}...
    R.I.P. Mr. Williams, born Louis Jacob Weertz, {1924 - 2011}.
  • Lucy from London, United KingdomThe Star Wars theme song is actually Born Free backwards.
  • Ted from Phoenix, AzJoy Adamson murdered by a former employee? Her husband shot and killed nine years later by poachers? I guess that says a lot about the human condition and our survivalist desire for revenge and money, respectively.
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