Al Borland, typically on the receiving end of Tim Taylor’s insults during Tool Time segments, always manages to handle Tim’s equipment gaffes and his corresponding painful grunts with a measure of grace. He maintains his poise with a reserved, stoic pride that is unflappable. Al is indeed an admirable character on the now syndicated Home Improvement (1991-1999), and the chemistry that he has with is co-host Tim is side-splitting at every encounter. In watching old episodes once again, I’ve noticed that Al has a tendency to bring two fingers to his head as he and Tim salute various tools or rooms of the house (e.g. chainsaws, magnets, the bathroom, and the kitchen).
In the spirit of Al Borland, I’d like to bring two fingers to my own forehead and make a heartfelt salute to Kenny Loggins, the iconic singer and songwriter who gained critical acclaim in the 1980s by way of the movie soundtrack. Prior to branching out into a solo career, Loggins collaborated with Jim Messina for much of the 1970s, releasing one album a year from 1971-1976. But it was in Caddyshack (1980), Footloose (1984), and Top Gun (1986) that Loggins unequivocally became known as “The Soundtrack King.”
In the words of Loggins from a 2014 Huffington Post article, “I needed to write music that touched my heart, that had something to do with who I am and where I am in my life. And the deeper I could go with that, the more likely it would touch other people.” Though I was born a year after Caddyshack was released, it’s been nothing short of a thrill and a joy to revisit films of the 1980s and the songs that provide them with pure staying power decade after decade. Therefore, I wish to highlight five songs from Loggins that make appearances in my running playlist a time or two. Or maybe I’ve just lost count.
1. “Danger Zone” (1986). Though Loggins didn’t write “Danger Zone,” his voice provides a supersonic energy that can only be matched by the F-14 Tomcats showcased in Top Gun by Maverick, Goose, Iceman, and the other pilots. Last year, I wrote about notable “danger zones” in the context of running in the heat, i.e. dehydration, exposure, and pace. While taking care of your body in the midst of summer is necessary, there’s certainly a tug on the spirit in the late miles of a race to push the body to its physical limits. As Loggins describes it in the song, “You’ll never know what you can do until you get it up as high [or as fast] as you can go.”
2. “I’m Alright” (1980). Bill Murray and Ted Knight steal the show in Caddyshack, but Rodney Dangerfield and Chevy Chase can, in no way, be negated for their hilarious performances. I love the upbeat melody of “I’m Alright,” and there’s a deep sense of carefree here, a liberation of getting outdoors in the warm sunshine. Skipping, even? Nah. But it’s surely hard to run to a song like this and not bob your head and swing those arms as you get swept up in the beat.
3. “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man)” (1984). I regret to admit that it wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally sat down to watch Footloose for the first time. Loosely (pardon the pun) based on actual events, the film depicts what it looks like when rock music is banned by the local city council (perish the thought). “I’m Free” is obviously a footnote to the signature tune “Footloose,” but Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) owns this song inside the warehouse. Running, too, is a dance, be it with friends at a group run or alone on a quiet street when no one is watching as you turn up the volume and let go of yourself.
4. “Playing With the Boys” (1986). Like “I’m Free” in Footloose, “Playing” is an afterthought to “Danger Zone,” but it’s a worthy inclusion not because of naval aviators playing beach volleyball – but because of the explosive participation by women in running. According to a Running in the USA report, there were 16,957,100 U.S. running event finishers, and women represent 57% of this total. From Joan Benoit Samuelson to Kathrine Switzer, and the upcoming stars, including Jordan Hasay (who became the fastest American woman to run the Chicago Marathon) and steeplechase great Emma Coburn, women are making major inroads in the sport of running. To put another way, running is no longer a man’s sport. Watch the music video for further clarification in pure rad 1980s fashion.
5. “Footloose” (1984). Before finishing this paragraph, I urge you to take a few moments and study the opening scene of the film (a little more than two minutes). There are many shoes on display, though only a few look like they might be suitable for a lengthy run along the road. The version opening the film is strong, but the studio recording packs so much more punch. Running is the catalyst for cutting loose by way of your feet, a unique dance that unfolds mile after mile. On a related note, “Footloose” was up for an Oscar as Best Original Song, but it was edged out by “I Just Called to Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder.
It would and has my vote - with every play on the iPod.
Well done, Mr. Loggins. Well done. I salute you.