The Story of... '(I've Had) The Time of My Life' from Dirty Dancing

21 February 2020, 15:32 | Updated: 17 August 2023, 10:57

The famous Dirty Dancing lift
The famous Dirty Dancing lift. Picture: Vestron Pictures

By Tom Eames

It's one of the most famous movie songs of all time, helped by a certain dance routine by Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.

'(I've Had) The Time of My Life' by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes was used in the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing, and has since become one of the world's most famous pop songs.

It's a song that is guaranteed to be heard at every wedding, birthday party and '80s cheese disco night.

But who wrote the song and what's the story behind its creation? Here are all the fascinating facts you need:

  1. Who wrote 'Time of My Life'?

    Franke Previte (right) with Frank DiCopoulis
    Franke Previte (right) with Frank DiCopoulis. Picture: Getty

    Singer-songwriter Frank Previte was the lead singer of the band Franke and the Knockouts. He had some success with the song 'Sweetheart' in 1981, but by 1986 he was without a record deal.

    In late 1986, producer and head of Millennium Records, Jimmy Ienner, asked Previte to write some music for "a little movie called Dirty Dancing".

    At first, Previte turned the request down as he was still trying to get a record deal, but took on the project and ended up writing several songs for the film, including 'Hungry Eyes', later recorded by Eric Carmen.

    Previte wrote the lyrics, and the music was written by John DeNicola and Don Markowitz.

  2. Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey danced to Previte's demo version

    [I"ve Had] the Time of My Life, Original Demo

    Previte recorded a demo of the song, performing it himself, along with singer Rachele Cappelli.

    The demo was a less polished version of the final track by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, but because the track was not ready by the time the finale of the movie was filmed, Previte and Capelli's much lighter demo was used as a backing track, so that actors Swayze and Grey, and the other dancers, could have something to dance to.

    On how he first saw the final scene, Previte said: "My feelings were over the top. What can I say? Chills."

    Swayze later said it was his favourite version, and it was eventually included on the 1998 CD reissue of Previte's 1981 album Franke and the Knockouts.

  3. Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes weren't the first choices

    Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes - (I've Had) The Time Of My Life [Official Video]

    The song was initially meant for Donna Summer and Joe Esposito to record, but Summer turned it down as she didn't like the title of the movie.

    Righteous Brothers star Bill Medley was approached by Jimmy Ienner many times over two months to record it, but he also turned it down as his daughter McKenna was due to be born.

    After the birth of his daughter, Medley was asked again, as Jennifer Warnes said she would record the song if she could duet with Medley.

    Warnes later said of the song: "I think it was an accident that just blossomed. Nobody thought it would be this huge. It was just a surprise.

    "And we did our best, Bill and I. The movie was great - still popular and always will be. But I've thought about it and I wondered why the whole world loves it so much and I think the answer is because it's real joyful. If you take the joy out of that song, it's not a hit."

  4. Lionel Richie was meant to record the finale song

    via GIPHY

    A song by Lionel Richie was initially planned to be used as the finale of Dirty Dancing.

    However, choreographer Kenny Ortega and assistant Miranda Garrison (who also played Vivian in the film) selected 'The Time of My Life' instead.

  5. It became a MASSIVE hit

    Dirty Dancing - Time of my Life (Final Dance) - High Quality

    In the United States, the single topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in November 1987 for one week, and also reached number one on the Adult Contemporary for four weeks.

    In the UK, it had two chart runs: in November 1987, the song peaked at number 6. In January 1991, after the film was shown on mainstream TV, the song climbed back up and reached number eight.

    It won an Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy in 1988.

  6. Who has covered the song?

    The Black Eyed Peas - The Time (Dirty Bit) (Official Music Video)

    Among various cover versions include:

    - Peter Andre and Katie Price recorded a cover for their 2006 album A Whole New World

    - Barry Manilow covered the song on his 2008 album The Greatest Songs of the Eighties

    - In 2010, The Black Eyed Peas sampled the chorus in their song, 'The Time (Dirty Bit)'

    - In 2014, the song was covered by Kerry Ellis and Joe McElderry for Ellis' self-titled album.