About the Song:
Italian composer Giorgio Moroder, dubbed the “Father of Disco,” was a pioneer in electronic dance music. He was best known for his production work with Donna Summer, but also worked with Blondie, David Bowie, Janet Jackson, and others. He worked on soundtracks as well, including 1978’s Midnight Express, 1980’s American Gigolo, and 1983’s Flashdance. The latter sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, fueled by Michael Sembello’s “Maniac” and Irene Cara’s “Flashdance…What a Feelin’,” both #1 hits. Moroder wrote the music for the latter with Irene Cara in mind because of what she did with the theme song (#3, 1980) for Fame. He would later write “Danger Zone” and “Take My Breath Away” for 1986’s Top Gun. SF
Cara was initially reluctant to work with Donna Summer’s producer because, as she expected, critics suggested she sounded like Summer on “What a Feelin’.” FB She considered the accusations sexist because, as she said, “There are so many records made by male artists today that sound alike. But nobody makes an issue of that.” FB
She wrote the lyrics for “What a Feelin’” with Ken Forsey, who later wrote “Don’t You Forget About Me” for The Breakfast Club and “Shakedown” for Beverly Hills Cop II. SF Cara and Forsey wrote the song while driving to a recording session. She suggested the idea of singing about the feeling associated with dancing. Forsey extended the idea to be about “dancing for my life.” As Cara said, the phrase “‘what a feeling’ was a metaphor about a dancer, how she’s in control of her body when she dances and how she can be in control of her life.” FB This fit with the storyline of the movie “of a Pittsburgh factory worker who beats out incredible odds to live out her dreams to dance.” TB
The Flashdance soundtrack knocked Michael Jackson’s Thriller from the top of the album chart for two weeks during Irene Cara’s six-week run at the top with “Flashdance…What a Feelin’.” Thriller would return to the top for 20 more weeks – 37 total – before getting knocked out by another music-themed movie soundtrack – Footloose. “What a Feelin’” earned an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. Cara also took him a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal.
First posted 11/2/2019; last updated 4/15/2023.