The Big Chill - 15th Anniversary: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Music review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Big Chill - 15th Anniversary: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Music Poster Image
Great, Motown-heavy intro to catchy '60s pop.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The songs on The Big Chill soundtrack are, for the most part, about the tribulations of romance rather than about any particular life lessons. Still, there's no problematical content and it's hard to argue with such positive messages as "Joy to the world, all the boys and girls ..."

Positive Role Models & Representations

In the course of dealing with their romantic issues, song narrators seem to favor the honest approach, as in "Tell Him" and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." Also, they're not shy about expressing appreciation for a sweetheart when it's due, as in "My Girl."


There's a sexual subtext to some of the songs on The Big Chill soundtrack, particularly Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and The Rascals' "Good Lovin'," but nothing explicit. "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" deals with infidelity, but while the betrayal is clear the sex is not. The narrator in "Joy to the World" says he'd "make sweet love to you" if he were king of the world.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Jeremiah the Bullfrog and the narrator of "Joy to the World" share some mighty fine wine; "A Whiter Shade of Pale" has druggy overtones in its imagery, but no direct references.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that while The Big Chill's aging Baby-Boomer protagonists deal with adult issues like suicide, drug use, and infidelity, and the film has an R rating, its soundtrack remains one of the most perennially appealing -- and mostly family-friendly -- collections of '60s Top 40 tunes ever assembled. Originally released in 1983 on the Motown label, it includes a hefty dose of hits from such stars as Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, and Smokey Robinson, as well as bouncy pop from The Rascals and Three Dog Night.

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What's the story?

In 1983's The Big Chill, a group of aging Baby Boomers gather for the funeral of a friend who has committed suicide and confront issues of love, death, betrayal, and forgiveness -- fueled by the music that became part of their DNA back in the day thanks to pop radio. The resulting anthology leans heavily to Motown hits (including Marvin Gaye's \"I Heard It Through the Grapevine,\" Smokey Robinson's \"The Tracks of My Tears,\" Aretha Franklin's \"(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman\") augmented by Top 40 pop (The Rascals' \"Good Lovin',\" Three Dog Night's \"Joy to the World\"). Procol Harum's \"A Whiter Shade of Pale\" is the only nod to the British Invasion -- and to the darker realities of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll often associated with '60s music.

Is it any good?

When The Big Chill first burst on the scene, its soundtrack garnered as much love as its plot and cast (which included Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly, JoBeth Williams, and Don Galloway). Over time, THE BIG CHILL SOUNDTRACK has aged more gracefully: While the movie seems a bit dated, the songs here have lost none of their appeal. The album is a classic introduction to Motown and a cheerful, pop-y revelation to anyone who thinks the '60s were all about acid rock and angry young men.

Since the soundtrack's first release, it's been the subject of endless griping about missing tracks, starting with the famous absence of the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Some of these omissions (though not the Stones track) are remedied on a double-album version, released in May 2012, which also includes tracks not included in the film at all.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether they like this music as much as many people do, and if so, why? What are your favorite songs?

  • Do the classic teen pop songs "Tell Him" and "Good Lovin'," released decades ago, still work?

  • Is this the first time you've heard music by Motown artists? Do you think you might like to check out some more?

Music details

  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Release date: September 22, 1998
  • Type: Album
  • Label: Motown
  • Genre: R&B/Pop
  • Parental advisory: No
  • Edited version available: No
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

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