Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Beauty and the Beast

First performed and recorded by Angela Lansbury (1991).
Hit version by Celine Dion & Peabo Bryson (US #9/MOR #3/CAN #2/UK #9/AUS #17 1991).

From the wiki: “‘Beauty and the Beast’ was written by lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken for the Disney animated feature film Beauty and the Beast (1991). The film’s theme song, a Broadway-inspired ballad, was first recorded by British-American actress Angela Lansbury in her role as the voice of the character Mrs. Potts.

“Disney first solely recruited Canadian singer Celine Dion in 1991 to record a radio-friendly version of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ to promote the film and the film’s forthcoming soundtrack album. However, the studio was concerned that the then-newcomer would not be a strong enough marquee name on her own in the United States (up until then, Dion had had only two songs reach the Billboard Hot 100 and only one hit Top-10), so the more bankable Peabo Bryson (‘Tonight, I Celebrate My Love’, ‘If Ever You’re in My Arms Again’), with his far larger fan-base, was brought in to be a duet partner. (In the beginning Dion had been reluctant to record ‘Beauty and the Beast’ at all because she had just been replaced from recording ‘Dreams to Dreams’, the theme song of the animated film An American Tail: Fievel Goes West – a song that had first been offered to but was rejected by Linda Ronstadt, but which would ultimately be recorded by Ronstadt after she changed her mind.)

“Both versions of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ were very successful – the film version garnered a Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Original Song; the promotional single won Grammy awards for Best Song Written for Visual Media and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. The single was also nominated for the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and the Grammy Award for Song of the Year.

“Lansbury’s performance has been universally lauded by both film and music critics. The Dion-Bryson version received mixed reviews from music critics who felt that it was inferior to Lansbury’s original. But, there is no doubting the duo’s single became a commercial success, peaking at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and hitting song charts internationally, becoming the better-known of the two arrangements. In addition to returning Disney songs to the pop charts after a thirty-year absence, the success of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ also put Dion’s career into orbit and established her as a bankable recording artist.”

Celine Dion & Peabo Bryson, “Beauty and the Beast” (1991):

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