Typically when asked to put Ray Parker Jr’s Ghostbusters theme into a genre, people put it in “80s”, “novelty”, or simply Rock. Which are all correct, but in a very general (and slightly derogatory way.) The similarity of the baselines in Ghostbusters and Huey Lewis’ I Want A New Drug was enough to take the matter to court, and inevitably that helped cement Ghostbusters as an 80s rock track.
But what if Ghostbusters had much older, better established roots? What if Huey Lewis had his day in court when in actuality Parker’s inspiration was, at least in part, much older?
Amateur musicologist Dane dropped me a line and a link to a 1969 recording of Save Me, by Ghana musical group, E T Mensah and his Tempos. The similarities in the overall structure of the song, not simply the base (which alternates between eerily Ghostbusters like, and more African) are very striking. Even the lyrical shape is familiar. And as Dane puts it, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to imagine a young Parker (who would formally start his career in music five years after the Save Me recording) having heard the track. And even more likely that he was familiar with the American/African fusion called Highlife (a musical form started in the 20s.)
This isn’t to say Parker Jr. ripped off another track – music is filled with reinterpreting styles that have come before, and it’s easy to hear all the ways Ghostbusters is different. But it puts a little bit of shine back into the world’s most famous movie theme, to think that it was the 80s child of a 60 year-old excuse to get up and boogie.
Cheers Dane – good ears!