Saturday, November 6, 1982

Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes’ “Up Where We Belong” hit #1

Up Where We Belong

Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes

Writer(s): Will Jennings, Jack Nitzsche, Buffy Saint Marie (see lyrics here)

Released: July 22, 1982

First Charted: August 21, 1982

Peak: 13 US, 13 CB, 13 RR, 3 AC, 7 UK, 12 CN, 12 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.25 UK, 2.34 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 52.0 video, 199.59 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

For his movie An Officer and a Gentleman, director Taylor Hackford decided he wanted an original song to close the film. It would be happy ending in which Richard Gere, dressed in his Navy uniform, comes to the factory where Debra Winger works and literally sweeps her off her feet and marches out as her co-workers cheer. Lyricist Will Jennings, who’d worked with Steve Winwood, was called in on a Friday to screen the movie. He wrote “Up Where We Belong” based on a couple of themes from the score by Jack Nitzsche and Buffy Sainte-Marie. By Monday morning, the demo was on Hackford’s desk. FB

A friend of Hackford managed Jennifer Warnes, who’d previously sung the Oscar-winning song “It Goes Like It Goes” from 1979’s Norma Rae. She was moved by Joe Cocker’s performance at the Grammys in February 1982 and thought the song would be a perfect duet with him. WK Hackford liked the idea because Cocker’s voice would match the personality of Gere’s rough character in the film while Warnes could represent the sweeter Winger character. WK

At Cocker’s request, the plan was for him to record his vocals separately from Warnes. When it came time to record, Cocker was terrified because he’d worked on the song all afternoon in his hotel but couldn’t get the words down. He got through it after writing up the lyrics on big blocks of wood. Then his version was spliced together with Warnes’ vocals. However, Cocker was the persuaded to sing the song in the studio with Warnes after being convinced that their “aural chemistry would work.” WK They got it down in one or two takes. WK

When the song was presented to Michael Eisner and Don Simpson, the executives at Paramount Studios, they hated it, saying it would never be a hit. Another executive said “Warnes has never had a hit song [which wasn’t true – “Right Time of the Night” hit #6 in 1977] and Joe Cocker’s a has-been.” WK The execs turned to some better known artists to watch the film, one of which said, “Hey, I can write something, but it’s not going to work as well as the song you’ve got.” WK Eisner and Simpson finally relented and the song which they thought would never be a hit was released as a single and went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. All Music Guide’s Matthew Greenwald called it “a modern-day pop standard.” WK


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Joe Cocker
  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Jennifer Warnes
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 562.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 3/29/2022.

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