To borrow from the beautiful and sweet gem from 1971’s WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, “pure imagination” are two words (of many) to describe the brilliant Gene Wilder, who passed away today (8.29.2016) at the age of 83.
Gene Wilder was a comedic genius and then some, from his films with Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor to his Emmy-winning guest spot on WILL & GRACE in 2003 to “Pure Imagination,” that gorgeous piece of music and movie history that will always be with me, at any age.
He was an accomplished actor, screenwriter, singer, author and film director, was nominated for two Academy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards. I love that his first film was BONNIE AND CLYDE (released six months and a day after I was born), though his first big film was 1968’s THE PRODUCERS, which gave him his first Academy Award nod. And, I had forgotten that he directed and wrote at least four films – and starring in all of them – including 1984’s THE WOMAN IN RED (adapted from the 1976 French film, PARDON MON AFFAIRE).
When I started the FOREVER YOUNG bloggy thing here back in January, I had no intention of posting a song from 1971 on a blog that focuses on music from the 1980s (and some from 1979), unless it had a connection to the 80s (like a reissue or something like that). And, as much as I love Stevie Wonder, I can’t in good conscience post “I Just Called To Say I Love You” (from THE WOMAN IN RED) as a tribute to Gene Wilder. That just wouldn’t be right. So, for Gene, I’m breaking my “rule” today.
The name of today’s post is taken from that gorgeous song Gene sings in the 1971 masterpiece, WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (all the while maintaining his gift for comedy). (A link to “Pure Imagination” from the film is attached below). I believe “Pure Imagination” might be one of the most-covered songs of all-time, and over the years, it has been covered by the likes of Kenny Loggins, Mariah Carey, Jazz great Bob James (who did the TAXI theme), and even Primus back in 2014 for their album, PRIMUS & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY WITH THE FUNGI ENSEMBLE. I’d say my favorite modern version of “Pure Imagination” is a lush 2013 cover by Fiona Apple.
While I am saddened by the loss of Gene Wilder, I am grateful for the movies and memories he leaves behind, and I think it’s pretty cool we were on the same planet for nearly 50 years. R.I.P. Gene, and many, many thanks. You’re missed already…