As the XXIV Olympic Winter Games unfold in Beijing, China, we look back 42 years to the XIII Olympic Winter Games which were held in Lake Placid from February 13, 1980 to February 24, 1980. Land of the Miracle on Ice and speed skater Eric Heiden winning five gold medals, the Lake Placid Winter Olympics brought together 1,072 athletes from 37 countries to compete in 38 official events in February 1980.
The games also featured a theme song, in the form of “Give it All You Got” by Rochester jazz legend Chuck Mangione, a track released a week before the games, which would chart as high as #1 on the Adult Contemporary, #18 on the Billboard 100 and #32 on the R&B chart, and recently nominated by Billboard as the #1 Olympics theme song of all time. “Give it All You Got” was Mangione’s second single to reach No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, after “Feels So Good” achieved the feat in 1978.
Roone Arledge, then president of ABC Sports, asked Mangione to create a song for the Winter Olympics. ABC had used Mangione’s recordings, including “Chase The Clouds Away,” four years earlier during their coverage of the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. With a line-up of Charles Meks (bass), James Bradley Jr. (drums), Grant Geissman (guitar) and Chris Vadalla (saxophone), Mangione, America’s most famous flugelhorn, penned the Grammy-nominated song for his 1979 album. Fun and games.
Richard Chalen wrote in 2020 about “Give It All You Got”:
This is jazz fusion at its most energetic and purest form, the TV version of “gritty”. Mangione and saxophonist Chris Vadala steal the theme back and forth for nearly half of the track’s six minutes, content to let that upbeat melody do most of the work. There is inspired composition beneath the surface: the way the chord structure continues to dance between major and minor, the points where flugelhorn and sax each converge in twin harmony. Add Charles Meeks’ slick bassline and Geissman’s Nile-Rodgers-style rhythm work, and you’ve got the perfect soundtrack for cruising Los Angeles in a 1974 Stingray convertible.
Mangione told Wesley Hyatt for his 1999 book The Billboard Book of No. 1 Adult Contemporary Hits on the process of composing music for the instrumental, saying:
(my) vision was to think about athletes and their efforts to do their best now. They give everything they have. And we could almost be like the athletes because we could also perform the song at the ceremonies.
“Give It All You Got” was nominated for Best Instrumental Composition at the 1981 Grammy Awards, losing to John Williams’ score for The Empire Strikes Back.
Mangione would perform “Give it All You Got” live during the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics (along with the song “Pina Colada”) on Sunday, February 24, 1980, just hours after the victory of the gold medal in hockey for the American team. on Finland with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra of Ontario, Canada.
In addition to Mangione, the crane school of music at SUNY Potsdam also contributed to the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. A 600-member Olympic choir and orchestra, a 50-member wind ensemble and three Olympic orchestras of 50 members each, who were bussed daily and wore weather-appropriate parkas and boots, instead of tuxedos and typical dresses. Brass players tested their instruments in the meat freezer at the local Potsdam supermarket as they prepared for the Games.
On February 9, 1980, the Collegiate Singers, led by Brock McElheran, were performing for the International Olympic Committee, along with visiting dignitaries from participating nations.
Four Crane School of Music faculty members composed original works for the Olympics, including Elliot Del Borgo, Arthur Frackenpohl, William Maul and Robert Washburn. When the American gold medalists, including speed skater Eric Heiden, received their medals, they were accompanied by an arrangement of the “Star Spangled Banner” by Frackenpohl, who also arranged the Greek and Yugoslav national anthems. Washburn composed “Parade of Nations” for the opening ceremonies, while Del Borgo wrote the closing song, “When Dreams Are Dreamed and Dreams Are Won”, and Maul composed “March of the Athletes” , used for closing ceremonies.
Crane School bands would provide music for the awards ceremonies each evening, with Emeritus Professor Rebekah Covell leading the Crane Symphonic Band for 14 performances over 14 days. With an added degree of difficulty, Covell and the musicians often had less than an hour to rehearse the national anthems needed for medal ceremonies, before performing the songs outdoors, often in freezing temperatures. Notably, Robert Mero, a former technical assistant at Crane, came out of retirement to help musicians with technical services during the Games, for Robert Gibbsprofessor and member emeritus of the Crane School alumni council.
Between Chuck Mangione and the students and faculty at the Crane School of Music, all of the music from the 1980 Winter Olympics can be traced to talented New Yorkers born and/or raised. This is the Winter Olympics return in Lake Placid in the years to come, possibly shared with Montreal.