Friend Like Me

Album: Aladdin Soundtrack (1992)
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Songfacts®:

  • Written by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman, this song from Disney's Aladdin has the Genie (Robin Williams) promising Aladdin (Scott Weinger) that he can make all of his dreams come true with three wishes.
  • Menken and Ashman didn't write this with Robin Williams in mind, but the actor would make the number his own. Menken told Entertainment Weekly: "We didn't know who was going to play the genie when we wrote the song. We were looking at the character as black, a hipster, and I suggested a Fats Waller, Harlem stride-piano style from the '40s. When Robin Williams was suggested, my first thought was, 'Can he sing like Fats Waller?' Robin learned every note. He was working on Hook at the time, and he would come in after being stuck in a harness all day and sit at the piano and learn. When we went into the studio, we got exactly the Fats Waller performance we wanted, and then everyone said, 'Okay, but now can we let Robin do his thing?' He was amazing. That trumpet wah-wah-wah was supposed to be from an instrument, and he made it vocal. He took ahold of the creative process, both on that and 'Prince Ali' especially. My God, he went crazy on 'Prince Ali.' He was doing the Thanksgiving Day Parade, Arab-style."
  • This was nominated for both an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song. It lost both to the film's "A Whole New World (Aladdin's Theme)," a collaboration between Menken and lyricist Tim Rice.
  • Will Smith plays the genie in Disney's 2019 live-action Aladdin movie. He recorded "Friend Like Me" twice for the film's soundtrack: a solo rendition and a rap-heavy end title version which features DJ Khaled. "I started playing with the hip-hop flavor, and the Genie was really born in my mind from the music," Smith said about the latter version.

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