Mob classic “Goodfellas” came out in 1990. Martin Scorses’ adaptation of Nicholas Pileggi’s book “Wiseguy” tells the story of real life mob associate Henry Hill and his life in the mob from 1955 to 1980 before he testified against his friends and lived in exile under the Federal Witness Protection Program. Scorses often uses music in his movies to depict the time and the emotion of the moment. The “Goodfellas” soundtrack features 43 classic songs from the 1950’s through the 1970’s. Often, Scorses will use beautiful music alongside grisly scenes to draw our emotions into the scenes. He also uses music to create the mood of the scenes.
Here are the top five songs from the “Goodfellas” soundtrack.
One of the most classic movie scenes featuring a soundtrack is Derick and the Domino’s “Layla” in Goodfellas. After the $5 million heist of Lufthansa at JFK Airport, Jimmy (Robert De Niro) warns everyone to lay low for awhile so no attention is drawn to them. When members of the “family” start spending money, Jimmy reacts. On top of that, Morrie (Chuck Low) wants his share of the money, and Stacks Edwards (Samuel L. Jackson) gets high and passes out before getting rid of the truck used in the robbery. Jimmy becomes paranoid and decides to cut all ties to the robbery. With Henry (Ray Liotta) narrating, some kids approach a Cadillac and see Johnny Roastbeast and his fiancÃ©e shot inside. Johnny bought the flashy Cadillac with money from the robbery. The 1973 instrumental guitar ballad “Layla” plays in the background as we’re shown a montage of other dead bodies in a dumpster and finally Frankie hanging with slabs of meat in a delivery truck. Henry points out it took two days for Frankie’s body to thaw. The scene lasts a full four minutes. Scorsese has a way with juxapositioning grisly murders with a beautiful love ballad to draw viewers in emotionally.
Then He Kissed Me
When Henry takes Karen (Lorraine Bracco) to New York’s The Copacabana Club, The Crystals 1950’s hit “Then He Kissed Me” plays in the background. The scene is one of the most famous tracking shots in film. As he woos his future wife, we see the life that Henry has entered into and his excitement to bring Karen along with him. Henry gets a lot of perks because of his gangster life. His car is parked for him, and he and Karen are ushered into the famous club through the VIP back door. Henry’s excited about his new life and Karen is certainly impressed.
Martin Scorsese likes to juxtapose peaceful ballads with murder to make a scene more poignant and intense. Billy Batts (Frank Vincent) sits at the bar drunkenly complaining that he doesn’t have money to provide for his family and is fresh out of jail. Batts’ complaining leads to Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) to fly off the handle (not a difficult thing to make happen). As the Donovan song “Atlantis” kicks in with its drum roll, Tommy comes up behind Batts and hits him. The song takes a beautiful and peaceful turn while Tommy and Jimmy savagely beat him to death. It’s ironic that such a savage death occurs with such a beautiful piece of folk music playing in the background.
It’s not the only movie that Marin Scorsese used the Rolling Stones‘ “Give Me Shelter” in. The song was also featured in “The Departed” and in “Casino”. In “Goodfellas” Henry promises mob boss Paulie (Paul Sorvino) not to get caught up in drugs. As “Gimme Shelter” plays, Henry is cutting cocaine with cards. In the song the lyrics are foretelling. “A storm is threatening my very life today.” “Rape, murder, it’s just a shot away.” Henry’s new life is taking a rapid turn into the dark world of crime.
What Is Life
At the climax of “Goodfellas”, Henry Hill starts to lose it. He is addled on drugs and paranoid as he spends the day running errands. He has to buy gun silencers, prepare for a drug run and make the family dinner. He becomes increasingly paranoid and believes he’s being trailed by helicopters. The scene is powerful and chaotic and the uplifting song “What Is Life” by George Harrison captures the mood. This is what Henry’s hopes and dreams have come to. He’s going down quickly.