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Music

Al Pacino’s curious favourite song of all time

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Since 1970, Al Pacino has stunned and stirred audiences in equal measure. He might seem like a natural of the craft, but behind his blistering performances is a solid backbone of hard work. As he once said himself, “Forget the career, do the work. If you feel what you are doing is on line and you’re going someplace and you have a vision and you stay with it, eventually things will happen.”

Pacino’s hard work isn’t simply limited to his craft either. Throughout his career, he has always tried to be a trailblazer of positive change. As it happens, this same notion is something that attracts him to certain works of art. This much is apparent from his favourite song of all time, the old show tune ‘You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught’ by Rodgers & Hammerstein.

The song from 1949 first featured in the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical South Pacific and it is the societal sagacity behind the track that snares Pacino. “It was a crucial time for our country’s history with the racial tension. The song has a real passion and a relevance to the times we were living in,” Heat star Pacino once opined.

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The music itself is about the blossoming romance between a young nurse and a secretive Frenchman who is being courted for a dangerous military mission as he is stationed on a South Pacific island during World War II. The music and subsequent film may well have come with taglines like “In the thrilling tradition of ‘Around the World in 80 Days’” and “The entertainment world’s most wonderful entertainment!” but behind the fanfare is a very serious point. 

This comment on race and society is subtly rammed home with the song ‘You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught’. This meant that upon release the song was deemed “downright inappropriate” for a musical. Now, it is clear that the song is focused on equality and racism, but upon release, it was actually banned in Georgia as it was claimed that it has “an underlying philosophy inspired by Moscow”. 

One legislator at the time even reprehensibly ventured to say, “a song justifying interracial marriage was implicitly a threat to the American way of life.” This resulting backlash was the exact reason that the song proved necessary in the first place and it inadvertently illuminated the central point of the song itself. Thus, Rodgers & Hammerstein remained defiant and kept the track in the production. This boldly liberated stance is something that Pacino has always admired beyond the lilting melody that makes the impact so musical. 

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