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Academy Snubs Bruce for 'The Wrestler'

Why he won't be going home with a gold statue

February 19, 2009
Bruce Springsteen holds his trophy for winning Best Original Song-Motion Picture for 'The Wrestler' at the 66th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California.
Bruce Springsteen holds his trophy for winning Best Original Song-Motion Picture for 'The Wrestler' at the 66th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California.
Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

The biggest Bruce Springsteen controversy of the season has nothing to do with Walmart. Springsteen fans are shocked that his stunning song "The Wrestler" (from the film of the same name) didn't get an Oscar nod — despite the fact that he won a Golden Globe for the tune. Instead of selecting five nominees (as in most other categories), the Academy chose only three: Peter Gabriel's "Down to Earth" from WALL-E and two from Slumdog Millionaire.

"The Wrestler" may have been a victim of the Oscars' complex nominating rules. The Academy's music branch watched all 49 eligible songs in a clip reel provided for them. Then they rated the tunes on a scale of 6.25 to 10 — and only the movies with averages of 8.25 or better made the cut. That system seems to give an edge to certain films. "A song that has a performance aspect is going to do better than one that doesn't," says Oscar nominee Danny Elfman's agent, Richard Kraft. "It's hard to compete with the music video at the end of Slumdog, while in 'The Wrestler,' you've got the names of key grips scrolling by."

This story is from the February 19, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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