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How Popular TV Shows and Movies Resurrect Classic Songs

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Photo Source: Mashable.com

HBO’s The Last of Us is arguably the hottest show out right now, receiving near universal acclaim from viewers and critics alike. This holds especially true for episode three: “Long, Long Time”. Without spoiling the show, Linda Ronstadt’s 53 year old heart wrenching song by the same title was used twice in that episode. This caused a sudden spike in the popularity of Ronstadt’s song, which is a common occurrence these days.

Episode three was a moving show, and a departure from the usual pace for the series. The song was first sung near the beginning of the show by two characters sharing a tender moment. Later, the real song was played at the end of the episode as the main protagonists rode off into the distance.

In other episodes of The Last of Us, music from different time periods have a symbolic meaning; it is used to indicate trouble and foreshadow events depending on what song is playing. As a byproduct, countless classic hits, like Depeche Mode’s “Never Let Me Down Again” are played in the show.

Episode three was released on January 29, 2023. Soon after, Spotify News tweeted that there had been a 4900% increase in streams for Ronstadt’s “Long, Long Time”. Similarly (although on a smaller scale), streams for “Never Let Me Down Again” increased threefold one day after episode one’s release earlier in the month.

As a result of popular TV shows using classics in crucial scenes, we have seen time and time again that these older tracks can end up back on the charts. 

Last year, Stranger Things propelled Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” to #1 on the global charts for much of the summer. Despite the song being nearly 40 years old, an iconic scene was enough to cause the song to blow up, both on music streaming services and short-form video apps.

In the TikTok era, audios take off all the time, seemingly without much rhyme or reason. Although, when universally revered shows use nostalgic songs in their key scenes, those songs usually become prime candidates for TikTok trends. Whether or not this is the case for “Long, Long Time” remains to be seen.

How the Song Ended Up on The Last of Us

Regarding the use of “Long, Long Time”, Craig Mazin (screenwriter, director, and producer) contacted Seth Rudetsky (a Broadway composer and musician) to suggest a song for a show he was writing. The instructions were that it needed to be along the lines of “I Miss The Music” from the musical Curtains, but older. Mazin wanted a song to be one that “a man would sing about a girl, a song that has a beautiful longing in it for someone who he can’t have or someone who is gone”. The initial suggestions were not in line with what the episode needed, until Rudetsky suggested “Long, Long Time” as his favourite “devastating song”. Mazin felt that it fit the episode's tone, resulting in it being a key component of the storyline in episode three.

“Long, Long Time”

“Long, Long Time” is an emotional song with beautiful chord changes and vulnerable vocals. The song feels like reminiscing, all while simultaneously crying out for the person you love but can’t have. HBO did the public a huge favour by re-introducing this masterpiece to our ears.

If you have seen episode three of The Last of Us, you will know that the song perfectly encapsulates the feeling of the characters in the show and the audience. If you have not yet seen it, leave yourself plenty of time to recover. It is sure to tear at your heartstrings.

Nick Offerman's version of Long Long Time by Linda Ronstadt

(If you would rather it be the real song playing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfxEFWVB09Q)

(or, if you believe it would be a spoiler to have scenes from the show in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKAtM9xS-fA&ab_channel=ConCherry)