*On July 17, 1981, Universal Pictures released the film adaptation of “Endless Love.” Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt starred as teens (ages 15 and 17, respectively) who engage in an obsessive sexual relationship against the wishes of their parents.
Endless Love (1981) – Original Trailer
Critics largely panned it, not feeling director Franco Zeffirelli’s adaptation of Scott Spencer’s novel. But fans made it a box office success, thanks in part to a theme song that spent nine weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned its singers – Lionel Richie and Diana Ross – an Academy Award nomination for Best Song.
Diana Ross & Lionel Richie perform “Endless Love” at the 54th Annual Academy Awards (1982)
Actress Jamie Bernstein, as the character Susan in the film, lip-syncs another singer’s version of “Endless Love” during a scene in the movie. Jamie is the daughter of famous composer, conductor and pianist Leonard Bernstein. In the film, she played a musician and the girlfriend of James Spader’s character. She revealed in her 2019 memoir “Famous Father Girl” that she was originally supposed to sing one of her own songs in the movie, but ended up lip-syncing another performer’s rendition of the title song. “Five seconds of my face from that insert is what ended up in the ‘party scene’ of the movie,” she wrote. Watch below:
Endless Love (1981) – Jamie Bernstein
Nearly 40 years after its release, “Endless Love” is still Diana Ross’ biggest-selling single ever. It also marked the last single of her nearly 20-year run on Motown, as she signed a record-breaking $20 million deal with RCA Records shortly thereafter. She recorded a solo version of “Endless Love” for her first RCA album, the self-produced “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” released the same year. Listen below:
Endless Love (Solo) – Diana Ross
Just as “Endless Love” closed out Ross’ Motown chapter, it marked the end of an era for Richie as a member of the Commodores. He was technically still fronting the band when “Endless Love” began flooding the charts, giving him even more encouragement to pursue a solo career. He released his debut self-titled album the following year, which, featured the hit singles “Truly,” “You Are” and “My Love.”
The original solo demo of “Endless Love,” with a slightly different arrangement and no soaring vocals from Ross, was included as a bonus track on the remastered 2003 rerelease of “Lionel Richie” on CD. Listen below:
Endless Love (Solo Demo) – Lionel Richie
Before the song was envisioned as a duet with The Boss, and even before the above demo, “Endless Love” was requested as an instrumental. Below, Richie tells ABC News how Jamie Bernstein’s presence in the movie and Ross’s artistry in the studio helped to fashion a final product that Billboard called “the greatest song duet of all time.”
“What I wrote as ‘Endless Love’ and what I sang are two different things because there were certain parts that she just killed on,” Richie said of Diana Ross. Watch below:
In addition to its Billboard Hot 100 reign from August 15 to October 10, 1981, “Endless Love” did some damage overseas as well, peaking at #1 in Australia and Canada; #3 in New Zealand; #5 in Sweden; #6 in Belgium, Finland and Switzerland; #7 in the UK; #8 in Norway and Spain; #9 in Ireland; #10 in the Netherlands; #20 in Italy; and #33 in Japan.
Buried somewhere in the rubble of “Endless Love’s” 1981 explosion is “Dreaming of You,” the other Richie/Ross duet on the soundtrack. Listen below:
Dreaming of You – Lionel Richie and Diana Ross
Thirteen years later, Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey would record their own Walter Afanasieff-produced version for Vandross’ Epic Records album “Songs,” a collection of cover tunes. The idea for the cover album was first suggested by Carey’s husband at the time, Sony Music Entertainment President Tommy Mottola. Vandross already had a cover of Richie’s “Hello” set for the album when Carey reportedly suggested to her husband that she team with Vandross for an update of “Endless Love.”
Luther Vandross – Endless Love ft. Mariah Carey at Royal Albert Hall in 1994