Clint Eastwood has been nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won four, as well as received the Irving G. Thalberg Lifetime Achievement Award. None of those awards, we’d like to note, are for his musical contributions.
His latest musical effort is “Gran Torino,” the title track to his latest vehicle (sorry, we couldn’t resist). We know Gran Torino is a car, but here, it also serves as a state of mind. Life, love and loneliness flow through the Gran Torino, and, therefore, through Eastwood’s character, Korean War vet Walt Kowalski, who’s bewildered and often dismayed by the world around him.
“Gran Torino” is performed by twenty-something British jazz popster Jamie Cullum, who wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the music with Eastwood, Eastwood’s son Kyle, and Michael Stevens.
It’s usually a bad sign when it takes so many people to write a song (unless there’s a lot of sampling going on and the writers from the borrowed song are credited). That’s not the case here. It’s more just confusing: Given how spare the music, delivered on piano by Cullum, is it’s hard to figure out how it took four people. The lyrics match the sparseness of the tune and are nicely evocative, especially the oft-repeated refrain about “beats a lonely rhythm all night long.”
“Gran Torino” is nominated for a Golden Globe for best original song this year (as is Eastwood’s score for “Changling.”) He was previously nominated for his scores for “Grace is Gone” and “Million Dollar Baby” and for best original song for “Grace is Gone” (co-written with Carole Bayer Sager). It’s a nice song, but it’s not awards caliber. Not when Eastwood is competing with the likes of Peter Gabriel and Bruce Springsteen.