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SoundTRAX: "Scrooged"

Bill Murray smiles as a bony hand lights his cigar.
A&M Records
/
Paramount Pictures

SoundTRAX is a dive into notable music from iconic films and TV shows every Monday-Thursday at 8:10.


The holiday season is officially upon us so it's another yuletide offering today— one that was released 35 years ago.

It's a story that has—and continues to be— told many, many times. But those other versions didn't have Bill Murray.

Yes, I'm talking about Scrooged, the darkly comedic 1998 edition of the Charles Dickens classic.

Murray isn't Ebenezer Scrooge but Frank Cross, a prickly television executive whose selfish ways have not only alienated him from his family and the love of his life, he plans to do a live broadcast of "A Christmas Carol" on Christmas Eve, thus making his employees' lives even more miserable than usual.

That's not the only deviation from Dickens' original tale. Alfre Woodard is this story's Bob Cratchett, as Frank's mistreated personal assistant, while her son— who can not speak— stands in for Tiny Tim. John Forsythe is the film's Jacob Marley, but as Frank's deceased former mentor.

There are still three ghosts who visit Frank, including a particularly grim Grim Reaper as The Ghost of Christmas Future, a hilariously violent Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the one and only David Johansen— yes former New York Dolls frontman David Johansen— whose Ghost of Christmas past is an obnoxious cab driver.

The rest of the cast is wonderfully weird as well: Bobcat Goldthwait, Robert Mitchum, Mary Lou Retton, Jamie Farr, Michael J. Pollard, Buddy Hackett, Robert Goulet, and even as I'm typing this it sounds insane.

And it is, but in the best sort of way.

The music? Well, it's also a mixed bag.

Sure there are holiday favorites by Natalie Cole, The Band's Robbie Robertson, and the freakishly brilliant quartet of Miles Davis, David Sanborn, Paul Shafer, and Larry Carlton, but there are also plenty of options for those who don't appreciate Christmas music.

The aforementioned David Johansen breaks out his alter-ego Buster Poindexter, while Dan Hartman, New Voices of Freedom, and even Kool Moe Dee contribute to the compilation.

And it's one of those non-holiday options I am compelled to choose as today's SoundTRAX selection.

How do you not go with the theme song, the one that closes out the movie, the one that inspires a full cast sing-along? The one featuring two of the finest vocalists to ever step behind a microphone, covering a tune first recorded by Kentucky's own Jackie DeShannon in 1969.

From Scrooged, it's Annie Lennox and Al Green with "Put a Little Love in Your Heart."

Mel is the WFPK morning host. Email Mel at mfisher@lpm.org.