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How Buffy Sainte-Marie won an Oscar for “Up Where We Belong”


When Jack Nitzsche became stumped while scoring the film “An Officer and a Gentleman,” he turned to his friend Buffy Sainte-Marie for help. Buffy played him the melody for her song “Up Where We Belong,” which took on “a life of its own.” The iconic song eventually went on to win several major awards, including the award for Best Original Song at the 55th Academy Awards in 1983.


- My friend Jack Nitzsche, who I had known in the '60s, he couldn't come up with a theme for this movie that he was scoring called 'An Officer and a Gentleman.'

And so I played him the melody for 'Up Where We Belong.'

(gentle piano music) And the doggone thing, it just had a life of its own.

♪ Who knows what tomorrow brings ♪ ♪ In a world few hearts survive ♪ - She was a writer beyond just being, people seeing her as a protest or some sort of writer like that.

She was a musician, creative on any front that could work.

(gentle acoustic music) ♪ As long ♪ - When I heard that song, I recognized Joe Cocker doing Buffy's phrasing.

I could hear, through him, Buffy's writing on that song, and I thought, wow.

♪ Love lift us up where we belong ♪ - And the winner is Jack Nitzsche, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Will Jennings, 'Up Where We Belong' from 'An Officer and a Gentleman. (audience applauding) - You have this moment where there's this enormous smash hit that gets all kinds of recognition, wins an Oscar.

You knew she was a force, she was a different kind of artist.

♪ Up where the clear winds blow ♪


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