A “one hit wonder” whose star blazed for far more than just one hit single. Patrick Swayze hit the American top 40 this day in 1988 with his only real hit song, “She’s Like the Wind.” For Swayze, it was a case of “third time’s the charm.”
Swayze was by then 35 years old and a reasonably established actor. He’d come to the public’s attention in 1983 in the film Outsiders, and had success in Youngbloods as well as being in several lesser-known movies to that point. He was trained in dance too, which no doubt helped him get the male lead in the small-budget retro film Dirty Dancing. Little was expected of it when it came out in the summer of ’87, but it became one of the year’s breakout hits and established Swayze as a major star. And as a singer.
He came about that honestly, he played a little guitar and sang and had been on Broadway in Grease. He likely thought “hey, if John Travolta can do it, why can’t I?” Not to mention that the late-’80s seemed a perfect time for crossover actor-singers. In the previous couple of years before “She’s Like the Wind”, Miami Vice‘s Don Johnson and movie & TV star Bruce Willis had both put out records that had some success and they were trailing soap opera star Rick Springfield who’d had a string of pop hits through the decade. So it wasn’t a stretch for Swayze to do so too, especially when starring in a film about dancing. However, “She’s Like the Wind”, which he co-wrote went back far further.
While only beginning to make a name for himself he’d been in acting classes in L.A. and met Stacy Widelitz, a man who was more musician than actor. Widelitz, his girlfriend Wendy Fraser and Swayze became friends and would hang out “talk about music, dance, acting and we became good friends,” Stacy recalled. They came up with the song together circa 1983, with Swayze writing the lyrics and “two chords” which his friend built upon for the tune. Swayze pitched it to the producers of the film Grandview USA, which he was in. They passed. A couple of years later he tried to sell the makers of Youngbloods on it, they too declined. Finally in 1987, he pitched it to the makers of Dirty Dancing, they liked it. So they recorded it, with Widelitz on synthesizer, Fraser doing the female backing vocals and studio musicians including guitarist Laurence Juber – briefly a membr of Wings – filling in the rest.
It was added to the soundtrack which was a mix of existing oldies befitting the movie’s early-’60s setting, like “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes and Maurice William’s “Stay” and new songs recorded for it. Notable among those were the singles “Hungry Eyes” by Eric Carmen and “The Time of My Life”, played over the film’s exuberant finale, by Bill Medley (of the Righteous Brothers) and Jennifer Warnes.
With the movie’s runaway success, the soundtrack followed. It went to #1 and stayed there for 18 weeks in the States, and eventually sold better than 30 million copies worldwide. Swazye’s single, the third off the album, was a major adult contemporary hit and got to #3 on the singles chart, and #4 in Canada and Ireland.
However, that was about it for Patrick the singing sensation. He did record a few songs for movies like Roadhouse and Next of Kin, but they drew little attention. He might not have minded much though; he was by then a major film star and would have blockbuster success in Ghost soon after as well as be named “sexiest man alive” by People in 1991.
Sadly however, he died of cancer in 2009.