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  • Stefan Riedlinger

Driving Miss Daisy - Hans Zimmer - Soundtrack Review

I have a very special relationship with Hans Zimmer’s score for „Driving Miss Daisy“. If I remember right, this was the first soundtrack of Hans Zimmer I bought, and it is still one of my favorite ones.

The movie

“Driving Miss Daisy” (1989) is an American comedy-drama adapted from the Alfred Uhry play of the same name. The film was directed by Bruce Beresford, with Morgan Freeman reprising his role as Hoke Colburn (whom he also portrayed in the play) and Jessica Tandy playing Miss Daisy. The story defines Daisy and her point of view through a network of relationships and emotions by focusing on her home life, synagogue, friends, family, fears, and concerns over a 25-year period. At the 62nd Academy Awards in 1990, “Driving Miss Daisy” received nine nominations, including Best Actor (Morgan Freeman), and won four awards: Best Picture, Best Actress (Jessica Tandy), Best Makeup, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Here is a trailer:

It is really astonishing how good the storytelling in this movie is. The characters are still light-hearted in her interactions even though the author is showing us the prejudices against blacks and Jews in Georgia prior to the civil rights movement. I watched the movie in a German movie theatre, and really enjoyed it. Freeman is great in this role, Tandy plays the old lady in a marvelous way, and Zimmer’s main theme for the driving scenes gave the picture quite a good drive and feeling. I also used the score for my next drive in a car a few days later and played the track “Driving” the whole time.

The score

In my opinion, Hans Zimmer is in composing this kind of music much better than with his rude action scores such as “Gladiator”, “Inception” or “Dark Knight”. That this music has still a special place in the composer’s heart shows us that he is using the score for opening up his concerts on the European Concert tour he is doing right now.

I attended the concert in Mannheim and it was quite fun to see the orchestra coming slowly on stage during the title “Driving”. First, the theme started with the woodwinds, and the audience immediately recognized the score, and when Hans himself came to the stage, the audience got crazy and applauded him while the composer sat on the synthesizer and played the famous theme.

Here is the track “Driving”:

Some critics were not happy about the fact that this score is totally electronic, not any live instrument in it, and that it really did not focus much on the musical era at that time, except a slightly jazzy tone when Zimmer used the sax and the clarinet. Personally, I do not understand the idea that for a movie that plays e.g. in the 40s, you just have to compose music of that time. Some critics also did not like that Jerry Goldsmith was using synthesizers in his music for the Western “Bad Girls”, but come on: The movie is shot with modern equipment, so why not using modern instruments?

Zimmer’s heartwarming melody gives the movie exact the right balance and the humor this story needed sometimes. From all four tracks, the second one called “Home” is the weakest one. It started with some suspense, then switch to the lyrical part, this time with strings, and closes with the main theme again, more piano in this track.

In the eight-minute-track “Georgia”, you can hear the best performance of the main theme with the usage of more instruments even though they were all sampled, and after one minute, you have a great jazzy arrangement with the sax before the synthesizers take over again. What a great moment of the score! Later in the track, you have some dissonant parts when Miss. Daisy is a few moments alone in the car and gets worried. These dissonant tones, you can hear also in Zimmer’s score to “Pacific Heights”. I normally skip this part.

The instrumental parts are just four tracks, roughly 25 min, and with the last track called “End Title”, you have a lovely reprise of the main theme, again with some nice jazzy arrangements. For this score, Zimmer was able to compose a really nice end credits music that summarized the greatest moments of the score.

Here is a soundtrack suite:

“Driving Miss Daisy” is like really amazing movie music should be: very well composed, a great main theme and a score that works even without seeing the movie. This little score is one of the best scores, Zimmer composed, and he should go back to these more lyrical and quieter moments of his musical life.

Copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2016, all rights reserved. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Stefan Riedlinger.

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