“Time Has Come Today” – The Chambers Brothers / The Ramones


One of my favorite psychedelic hard-rock soul songs from the 1960s, here’s the Chambers Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today.” One of the most brilliant uses of rock music in film was when Hal Ashby used this song to underscore a long and intense scene in his 1978 Vietnam drama “Coming Home,” the one where Bruce Dern confronts Jon Voight over Voight’s affair with Dern’s wife, played by Jane Fonda.

As a bonus, I’ve also included the Ramones’ kick-ass punk-metal cover from 1983’s “Subterranean Jungle”:

“Once I Was” – Tim Buckley .. as used in “Coming Home” (1978) dir. Hal Ashby


UPDATE (Oct. 2015): The clip of this from “Coming Home” has since been removed from YouTube.  I’ve posted a non-film version here as a substitute.  You are strongly urged to check out “Coming Home” when you get a chance.

One of the most powerful uses of a song in a film. This is the ending of Hal Ashby’s Vietnam War drama “Coming Home” from 1978. The scene features Jon Voight’s paralyzed Vietnam War veteran talking to a group of high school students, while Bruce Dern’s veteran character commits suicide by swimming into the sea.

Apparently, Dern’s suicide scenario was one that Ashby often thought of. The use of Buckley’s “Once I Was” was especially meaningful, because before Buckley’s death from an overdose of heroin, was Ashby’s choice to play Woody Guthrie in his biopic “Bound for Glory.”

“Trouble” – Cat Stevens from the 1971 film “Harold and Maude” dir. Hal Ashby

One of the best uses of pop music in film history, this montage set to Cat Stevens’s “Trouble” from Hal Ashby’s “Harold and Maude” is sad and brilliant.  I remember seeing “Harold and Maude” multiple times on cable TV during the summer of 1983 and was always struck by how effectively Cat Stevens’s songs were used in the context of the film.   While many films have since aped its use of pop music to drive the plot of a story, this was one of the first and still one of the best.

“Pleasant Street / You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (live 1968) – Tim Buckley


Talk about intense. From the posthumously released live album “Dream Letter: Live in London 1968,” Tim Buckley could go from a whisper to a scream at the drop of a pin. A great acoustic performance of an already great song that segues into a Supremes song at the end. Most of the people from my generation are more familiar with Tim’s son Jeff, who like his father, died tragically at a young age.

FYI – Buckley was director Hal Ashby’s first choice to play Woody Guthrie in “Bound for Glory,” until Buckley died of a heroin overdose in 1975. David Carradine did a fine job, but I always wonder what Buckley would have done in the role. Ashby paid tribute to Buckley by using Buckley’s “Once I Was” during Bruce Dern’s suicide scene in “Coming Home.”