Today’s Song of the Day is “Somewhere Out There” by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram. It was on this day, March 2, 1988, that this won Song of the Year at the 30th Grammy Awards. It was also nominated for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, but lost to the Dirty Dancing hit “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.”
This was written for the Steven Spielberg-produced animated film An American Tail. In the movie, a family of mice from the Ukraine immigrates to the United States, but loses young Fievel along the way. One lonely night, Fievel (Phillip Glasser) and his sister Tanya (Betsy Cathcart), separated by a long distance, sing “Somewhere Out There” in the hopes of reuniting. Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram were enlisted to sing the pop version, a romantic ballad about two separated lovers who take comfort in the fact they are looking out at the same starry sky.
The song was written by James Horner (best known for writing the Titanic score), and Songwriter Hall of Famers the husband/wife team of Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’“, “Christmas Vacation“). It reached number eight in the United Kingdom, number six in Ireland, and number two in both the United States and Canada.
Ronstadt’s regular producer Peter Asher also produced the duet, which proved to be a challenge. Asher explained in a 2018 Songfacts interview: “She and James Ingram, when we did ‘Somewhere Out There,’ never actually were in the studio at the same time, which is more common now but was a bit less common then. And getting it all to fit together, matching their vibratos and the last note and stuff like that, which again in Pro Tools would be two seconds, took quite a while because I had two separate takes of each of them separately. But, for reasons I can’t quite remember, they weren’t in town at the same time.
Sadly, Ingram died in Los Angeles of brain cancer on January 29, 2019, at the age of 66. And Ronstadt can no longer perform due to progressive supranuclear palsy (which is a brain disease which can be mistaken for Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
But they left us a gem of a duet. And it helped An American Tail become a smash success in an age when animated movies were not doing to well at the box office (grossing $84 million making it the highest-grossing non-Disney animated film at the time).