About The Song
At the end of November 1985, Phil Collins climbed to the pole position on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Separate Lives,” a duet with Marilyn Martin. Three weeks later, Lionel Richie’s “Say You, Say Me” ascended to the throne. Both songs were featured in Taylor Hackford’s film White Nights, making it only the sixth movie of the rock era to generate more than one #1 song. The others were Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Flashdance, Footloose, and Purple Rain.
Interestingly, though, the song was not on the soundtrack. Richie was supposed to deliver a new solo album to Motown and they wouldn’t allow the song on the soundtrack. They did, however, agree to have the song released as a single in time to promote the movie. Richie’s new album (Dancing on the Ceiling) wouldn’t surface until August 1986.
Hackford had a good track record with #1 songs from his movies. An Officer and a Gentleman produced Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes’ “Up Where We Belong” and Against All Odds generated the title song from Phil Collins. He wanted Richie for this movie, asking if he’d write the title song. Richie’s manager, Ken Kragen, reached out a couple of weeks later to say that Richie couldn’t come up with a song called “White Nights,” but had written another song called “Say You Say Me” which he tought would work. Hackford thought it was perfect.
The song, which uses many of the same session players as Michael Jackson’s Thriller, is “a soft R&B ballad, with an upbeat dance bridge, about the pain of loneliness and the power of friendship.” It fit well with the movie’s story about an unlikely friendship which formed between a Russian ballet dancer (Mikhail Baryshnikov) who defects from the Soviet Union, and a tap dancer (Gregory Hines) who defects from America. “Say You Say Me” won an Oscar for the Best Original Song- beating out “Separate Lives.”