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Inside the Dude's Stoner Soundtrack

What is Lebowski's musical legacy? A Bob Dylan rarity, some Creedence and an angry Glenn Frey

August 28, 2012 3:06 PM ET

When they were working on The Big Lebowski, Joel and Ethan Coen already had some music in mind for the soundtrack: Kenny Rogers' "Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was in)," the Gipsy Kings' cover of "Hotel California" and plenty of Creedence Clearwater Revival for the Dude to play in his car. They left the rest to producer T Bone Burnett, who served as the "musical archivist" on Lebowski and as a music producer on other Coen brothers films (including the Grammy-winning O Brother, Where Art Thou?).

Burnett knew Lebowski would be a challenge: "Since the Dude was high all the time, he would have to have incredible taste in music." He secured the Kenny Rogers and the Gipsy Kings, and then added tracks by Captain Beefheart ("Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles") and the blind street musician Moondog ("Stamping Ground"). He also locked in the rights to a relatively obscure Bob Dylan song called "The Man in Me" — best known for its "la la la la la" chorus. "[Lebowski] put some light on it," Burnett says, adding, "New Morning is one of my favorite Dylan records."

A tougher get was Townes Van Zandt's cover of the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers," which plays over Lebowski's closing credits. "[Former Stones manager] Allen Klein owns the rights to it," Burnett says. "He wanted $150,000." Burnett begged Klein to just come down and watch an early cut of Lebowski. "It got to the part where the Dude says, 'I hate the fuckin' Eagles, man!' Klein stands up and says, 'That's it, you can have the song!' That was beautiful." For the record, Burnett agrees with the Dude ("[The Eagles] sort of single-handedly destroyed that whole scene that was brewing back then," he says), but the line infuriated Glenn Frey. "I ran into [Frey] and he gave me some shit," Jeff Bridges says. "I can't remember what he said exactly, but my anus tightened a bit."

[From Issue 1060 — September 4, 2008]

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