Movies

The Best Acceptance Speeches From Musicians In Oscar History

Isaac Hayes
AP Photo

Isaac Hayes

Music category winners’ speeches are among the most memorable in the awards show’s history.

Below are a select few from the Academy Awards website (which contains transcripts of over 1,500 acceptance speeches), edited for brevity.

Isaac Hayes
Award: Song - Original for the Picture

"Theme From Shaft" - Shaft, 1971

"... I would like to thank a lady who’s here with me tonight, because years ago her prayers kept my feet [on] the path of righteousness, and that’s my grandmother… [In] a few days [it will be] her 80th birthday and… this is her present from me..."

Carmine Coppola (co-winner with Nino Rota)
Award: Original Dramatic Score
The Godfather Part II, 1974

"… I want to thank my son Francis Ford Coppola [who directed The Godfather, Part II] ... because without him I wouldn’t be here. However, if I wasn’t here, he wouldn’t be here either, right?"

Paul Williams (co-winner with Barbra Streisand)
Award: Original Song

"Evergreen (Love Theme From A Star Is Born)" - A Star Is Born, 1976

"... I was gonna thank all the little people and then I remembered I am the little people…"

Bruce Springsteen
Award: Original Song
"Streets of Philadelphia" - Philadelphia, 1993

"… Gee, this is the first song I ever wrote for a motion picture, so I guess it’s all downhill from here…"

Hans Zimmer
Award: Original Score
The Lion King, 1994

Ron Galella, Ltd/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Hans Zimmer

"… I’m incredibly nervous. I tell you what, writing a score is much easier than this. Thank you. Just let me go, OK."

Randy Newman
Award: Original Song

"If I Didn't Have You" - Monsters, Inc., 2001

"… I want to thank first of all the music branch for giving me so many chances to be humiliated over the years. [Editor’s note: Newman lost 15 times before finally winning.] I have nothing [prepared], I’m absolutely astounded that I’ve won for this… Having someone this beautiful [presenter Jennifer Lopez] give me an award, I’ll never get to heaven but that’s as close as you get, I think."

Michael Giacchino
Award: Original Score

Up, 2009

"... When I was... 9 and I asked my dad, “Can I have…that old, wind-up 8mm camera that was in your drawer?” … I started making movies with it and I started being as creative as I could, and never once in my life did my parents ever say, “What you’re doing is a waste of time” ... I had teachers, I had colleagues, I had people that I worked with all through my life who always told me what you’re doing is not a waste of time … I know there are kids out there that don’t have that support system, so if you’re out there and you’re listening, listen to me: If you want to be creative, get out there and do it; it’s not a waste of time."

Common (co-winner with John Legend)
Award: Original Song

"Glory" - Selma, 2014

John Shearer/Invision/AP
Common (left) and John Legend.

"… Recently John and I got to go to Selma [Ala.] and perform “Glory” on the same bridge that Dr. [Martin Luther] King and the people of the civil rights movement marched on 50 years ago. This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation but now is a symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and social status… This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion and elevated by love for all human beings."

Benj Pasek (co-winner with Justin Hurwitz and Justin Paul)
Award: Original Song
"City of Stars" - La La Land, 2016

Kevin Winter/Getty Images
From left: Justin Hurwitz, Justin Paul and Benj Pasek.

"... I want to thank my mom… She let me quit the JCC soccer league to be in a school musical. So this is dedicated to all the kids who sing in the rain, and all the moms who let them..."

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 25, 2020 issue of Billboard.

2020 Academy Awards