*Thirty-six years ago today, Deniece Williams locked down her third R&B No. 1 and second Billboard Hot 100 topper with “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.” It was featured in a little movie you might’ve heard of called “Footloose,” starring Kevin Bacon as a Chicago-born teen who moves to a small Oklahoma town and yearns to defy its ban on public dancing.
In this EUR Video Throwback, trace the story of how Williams, a former background singer for Stevie Wonder, ended up with the hot track, which also hit No. 1 on the dance chart and helped make the “Footloose” soundtrack a classic.
Folks were already anticipating the film’s Feb. 17, 1984 release. The title track from Kenny Loggins had already been out for several weeks and getting heavy airplay on MTV. “Footloose” reached No. 1 in the U.S., setting the bar high for the second single.
The film’s screenwriter, Dean Pitchford, also penned all of the songs for the film. He teamed with songwriter Tom Snow for “Let’s Hear It For the Boy,” looking to use it for the scene when Bacon’s character Ran tries to teach Christopher Penn’s Willard how to dance.
Pitchford and Snow had originally slotted their track “Somebody’s Eyes” for the scene.
But as production continued, the movie’s director, Herbert Ross, didn’t feel that the track fit with the scene. Dean and Tom went back to the lab and wrote another song, this time about a girl’s ode to a great boyfriend, even though dude is a bit rough around the edges. They came up with the lyric “Let’s Hear It For the Boy,” and then decided to make that the title and write the song around it.
With Loggins of “This Is It” fame already booked for the title track, Pitchford felt he had enough clout to approach the great Deniece Williams and her famous producer George Duke to tackle “Let’s Hear It For the Boy.” Williams already had two #1 R&B hits to her name – “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” with Johnny Mathis and “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle.”
Williams reportedly loved “Let’s Hear It For the Boy.” And having grown up in Gary, Indiana – a small Christian-focused town similar to the film’s setting, she could identify with the film’s storyline.
Williams and Duke got to work and finished the track, but Pitchford thought their first effort sounded to girlish for the scene. With time running out, they flew from Los Angeles to New York to record another take under deadline pressure, this time with Pitchford’s offering input from a distance. Williams ended up doing the final take late that night following the long cross-country flight, with Duke on drum programming, keyboards, Memory Moog bass and synthesizer, in addition to producing.
Williams said that when she saw the film, and the final song under the scene, she thought it was incredible. Watch below:
Niecy’s own music video for the song was directed by Kenny Ortega.
By the way, George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam, who sang backup on “Let’s Hear It For the Boy,” ended up forming the 80s pop duo Boy Meets Girl. Their biggest hit was “Waiting for a Star to Fall” in 1988…
But perhaps you’re more familiar with their earlier work, writing the 1985 hit “How Will I Know” and 1987 party staple “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) for Whitney Houston.
Sometime in 2009, Williams and Stevie Wonder reunited on stage…