Music

'On the Road Again' and '9 to 5' Were Oscar Nominees on 'Coal Miner's Daughter's' Big Night

AP Photo and AP Photo/Harms

If you weren't into country music (or alive) before 1980, it's hard to imagine forming an opinion about Willie Nelson and his music without considering the lasting impact of "On the Road Again." Everyone from Nelson family friend Neil Young to Sesame Street's Elmo has covered Nelson's love letter to touring since the 1980 release of the film its from, Honeysuckle Rose. Shoot, it's so engrained in American culture that most of the "I listen to everything but rap and country" crowd know it by heart.

Similar things can be said about the theme song from Dolly Parton's Hollywood debut, "9 to 5." It's as big a part of Parton's legend at this point as her philanthropic spirit and her role in finding the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. Plus, how cool is the story of how she makes the typewriter sound heard in the song with acrylic nails?

Beyond being beloved soundtrack selections by two all-time great singer-songwriters, "On the Road Again" and "9 to 5" have something less obvious in common. Both were among the five songs nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar at the 53rd annual Academy Awards (held in Los Angeles on March 31, 1981 and aired by ABC).

The theme song from Fame won the Oscar that night, topping not just Nelson and Parton but also "Out Here on My Own" from Fame and "People Alone" from The Competition.

Despite those losses, it was a big night for country music. Loretta Lynn biopic Coal Miner's Daughter vied for seven awards, including Best Picture, and won one: Best Actress for Sissy Spacek.

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"On the Road Again" faired better at music industry awards shows, winning a Grammy award (Best Country Song (1981)). It's also in the Grammy Hall of Fame alongside Nelson's version of "Always on My Mind" and the albums Red Headed Stranger and Stardust.

Likewise, "9 to 5" won five BMI awards plus two Grammys (Best Country Song (1982) and Best Country Vocal Performance, Female).

Nelson has yet to receive a second Oscar nomination, though his covers repertoire includes past winners ("Moon River") and nominees ("The Rainbow Connection").

Parton got a second nomination in 2005 for "Travelin' Thru," a song from Transamerica, a movie about a trans woman hitting the road again. It lost out to "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" from Hustle & Flow.

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'On the Road Again' and '9 to 5' Were Oscar Nominees on 'Coal Miner's Daughter's' Big Night