Dirty Dancing: Original Soundtrack

Music review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Dirty Dancing: Original Soundtrack Music Poster Image
Much less "dirty" than the movie, lots of fun to dance to.

Parents say

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The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive messages

Most of the tracks here are romantic and upbeat in their treatment, without having any really deep message. British '80s punk-pop group the Blow Monkeys turn in a snarly version of Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me" that could do wonders for a kid's self-esteem.

Positive role models & representations

The people singing "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" have shared something important and appreciate it. The singer of "You Don't Own Me" is definitely standing up for himself.

Violence
Sex

While sex is definitely an issue in the Dirty Dancing movie, the lyrics on the soundtrack are pretty tame, e.g. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life": "Yes I know what's on your mind / When you say, "Stay with me tonight" / Just remember / You're the one thing / I can't get enough of."

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that while the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing (set in the early 1960s) is loaded with steamy scenes and adult themes, the soundtrack album is a lot more innocent. True, Bill Medley's voice is about as sultry as Patrick Swayze's dancing on "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," but the lyrics are unthreatening to tender ears. It's mostly feel-good, hot dance floor and classic late-'50s/early-'60s pop and doo-wop, harking back to an innocent time just before the Kennedy assassination, among other things, changed everything.

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What's the story?

It's the summer of 1963 in the Catskills, and Baby (Jennifer Gray) is becoming a dancer and a woman thanks to the attentions of dance instructor Johnny (Patrick Swayze). The background music, from bouncy outdoor scenes to lively group dance numbers to increasingly sexy duets, is mostly drawn from the pop music hits of the story's time, e.g. The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and the Five Satins' "In the Still of the Night." Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes' "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," written for the film, carried off an Oscar and has become a classic.

Is it any good?

Not every song in this collection is a classic, but the '50s and '60s oldies are all notable not just for nostalgia but also for evoking that urgent, pent-up romantic longing that was such a staple of that era's teen music. Not all the '80s tracks rise to the level of "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" -- opinions vary, for example, as to whether Patrick Swayze should have stuck to dancing instead of recording "She's Like the Wind" -- but they're all appealing and danceable.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the style of dancing in Dirty Dancing -- why it was so popular at the time and why it remains popular today.

  • Which songs do you like best? Are they songs that were recorded in the '50s and '60s or in the '80s?

  • Have you heard the original version of "You Don't Own Me," which was a big Top 40 hit in the early '60s? What do you think of it compared with the version on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack?

Music details

  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Release date: August 21, 1987
  • Type: Album
  • Label: RCA
  • Genre: Pop
  • Parental advisory: No
  • Edited version available: No

For kids who love dance music

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