The Dave Grusin Archive
Music for the Screen
The Electric Horseman

Stars:  Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Valerie Perrine, Willie Nelson, John Saxon

Director:  Sydney Pollack
Producer:  Ray Stark
Released:  Columbia 1979

Story:  'Norman “Sonny” Steele is the cowboy who liberates a champion horse from Las Vegas exploitation, with female TV reporter in hot pursuit.

Blending a diverse range of elements, “The Electric Horseman” score is an inventive mix of cowboy songs, glitzy disco, funky sounds and orchestral music evoking the wide open spaces of the western United States.

A montage telling the story of Sonny Steele provides the imagery for the country-style main title.  It's a simple and rhythmic melody played with guitar, not colored by the disco flavor and bright lights in most of the score.

The theme is repeated in the sequence where Rising Star is released among the wild horses, and thereby provides an additional psychological link between stallion and rodeo star.

Picking up on the ever-present milieu, “The Electric Horseman” is moved on in the first half by a series of cowboy songs performed by Willie Nelson (who also plays a supporting role in the film).  Not only does this underpin the cultural as well as geographical environment, these songs also embellish the story and provide a colourful link between sequences.

“Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” has even been incorporated into the instrumental underscoring.  (And “Hands Off The Wheel” sums up the picture beginning over closing scenes and covering end titles.)

In contrast with Dave Grusin's frequent practice of  limiting music in the opening half of a film, the early parts of “The Electric Horseman” are plentiful with same  - the songs, source music and some underscoring.  However, once the situation has been established, all virtually disappear.

Principal musical theme of the picture is one conveying the majesty and grandeur of the great race horse, intermingled with a western feeling (via mouth organ).  Giving melodic expression to the exquisite geographical setting of the picture, It is known as the `love theme,' and provides an effective backdrop for such scenes as the horse driven away, a serious conversation between Sonny and Hallie, and their arrival at Silver Reef.

But the ultimate getaway scene of the film is enhanced by something completely different.  Rousing and charming, the music is stopped in the middle of the sequence, and adds great punch when it starts up again to accompany the final flat-out race between horse and police cars.

As a major segment of the film takes place in Las Vegas, the early scenes use music to reinforce the locale, including the “Disco Magic” extravaganza.

Likewise, the funky “Electric Horseman” theme has all the splash which makes up the environment of champion rodeo star Sonny Steele.  Speed, spills and swerving.  However, Character development is achieved musically through color rather than theme, with a contemporary feeling introduced into Hallie's early scenes and a lethargic one to indicate Sonny.

In the context of the argument over whether film scoring is an art or craft, this is an example of the latter, but without question, an excellent one.

Music Editor:  Else Blangsted
Music Scoring Mixer:  Dan Wallin

Columbia - JS 36327


Midnight Rider
My Heros Have Always Been Cowboys
Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
So You Think Your A Cowboy
Hands On The Wheel

Electro Phantasma  
Rising Star  
The Electric Horseman  
Interlude-Tumbleweed Morning  
Disco Magic  
Freedom Epilogue  

soundtrack album

Dave Grusin
Feature Films