‘I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse’ – Don Corleone
For the first time ever I recently watched all three Godfather movies. For some strange reason I’d never gotten around to watching them, so I finally caught up with the rest of the world. It took me a while as you can imagine, bearing in mind they are all around 3 hours long. And after three glorious nights of sitting through these amazing films I made it my mission to learn the theme tunes on the piano and record them.
It’s amazing how important and influential music is to a movie, and you don’t always realise it at the time when you’re watching. It tends to be afterward when you realise how amazing the music was and how it makes the film that little bit more special when you revisit them years later. And for me, The Godfather theme has to be one of the most famous movie songs of all time. Most films have only one popular theme, so what’s even more amazing is that The Godfather has two successful sound tracks that everyone knows and loves.
The music of The Godfather was written by Giovanni ‘Nino’ Rota (1911-1979) who was an Italian composer, pianist, and conductor. The most famous themes from The Godfather are the main theme itself, which was originally called ‘Speak Softly Love’, and The Godfather waltz. As a pianist I sometimes find it can be difficult to play an orchestral song on the piano and do it justice, but fortunately these themes have a very distinct melody that sound great on the piano.
I’ve been listening to a lot of different piano versions on YouTube, and what I found to be interesting is that a lot of great pianists are making it sound extremely complicated by adding in a lot of arpeggios and huge chords. Although they sound fantastic, I must admit that I prefer to hear the stripped back and simple versions. The melodies speak for themselves sometimes, and for me I think it’s better to keep it simple and just focus on the melody, and make sure it sings proudly in that right hand.
I decided to do three recordings. The first one is of the main Godfather theme, and the second is the waltz. Lastly, I wanted to have a little fun with the main theme, so I decided to record a swing version. I am a huge Ray Charles fan, and one of my favourite tracks is ‘Hit the Road Jack’. I love the piano start that Ray Charles plays in this song, so I decided to use it for the Godfather, and make a swing version.
Here is my version of the main Godfather theme –
Here is my version of the waltz –
And finally, here is my swing version of the main theme –
I had an amazing time playing and recording them, and I hope you enjoy listening to them and that I’ve done them justice… 🙂