Study Guide

Ghostbusters Music (Score)

Music (Score)

The Legend of Elmer

Reitman called in the big guns to score Ghostbusters when he enlisted the legendary Elmer Bernstein (1922-2004). From the 50's, the Academy Award and Golden Globe winning composer had been a heavy hitter in the soundtracking scene.

Seriously, check out Bernstein's filmography here; it's off the charts. To Kill a Mockingbird, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Magnificent Seven, True Grit—these are just a few of the many classic flicks to Elmer's credit. Not long before Ghostbusters came out, Bernstein also scored Reitman's comedies Animal House and Meatballs, making him a shoe-in for the job. 

The critics give Bernstein's Ghostbusters score lots of props, for the most part saying that the music supports the action of the film, perfectly capturing the spooky yet quirky mood of the whole thing.

One of the things that critics mention most is Elmer's use of the ondes martenot (an antique French synthesizer) to capture the ghostly feel of the film. You can hear the martenot creep-ifying the first scene in the library; it's the high-pitched synthy thing that kind of reminds you of B sci-fi movies.

The cool thing is that Elmer took grade B sounds and wove them into a Grade A soundtrack. From the opening creepy music in the library, to the full orchestra blasts to announce the coming of Zuul and Gozer, to the romantic cello music of Dana's theme—Bernstein's ghostly score is dead-on.

Ray Parker Jr. Ascendant

If you ever meet the ghost of Elmer Bernstein and you feel like ticking him off, ask him if he's the guy who wrote the Ghostbusters theme song. Elmer's ghost will probably immediately slime you, and fly shrieking through a wall.

In fact, the famous song that made "Who you gonna call?" a household phrase for an entire decade was written by a loveble one-hit-wonder named Ray Parker Jr.

Ray's upbeat, catchy-in-an-80's-way theme song replaced Bernstein's quirky main theme in a lot of places in the film—a fact that nobody but poor old Elmer probably cared about.

Seriously, America ate "Ghostbusters" up with a spoon. The song was a major hit and stayed at the top of Billboard Charts for three... yes, three weeks, adding around twenty million dollars to the movie's earnings. If you yelled "Who you gonna call?" out in the mall (it was the 1980's) probably a hundred people would immediately answer you with "Ghostbusters!"

Yeah, it was creepy.

Parker the Plagiarizer?

Besides the fact that a movie theme song was his biggest hit, the only fly in Ray Parker Jr.'s chardonnay came in the form of Huey Lewis. The front man for the band Huey Lewis and the News sued Parker and Columbia Pictures, saying that the song stole the melody from Huey's song "I Want a New Drug."

You be the judge.

Whatever the case, Lewis settled out of court with Parker and Columbia, and the whole thing simmered down until Lewis mentioned the suit in a VH1 interview, violating the settlement's confidentiality agreement. After that, it was Ray Parker Jr.'s turn to sue.

Fellahs, fellahs... you're both kings of the 80's, all right?