‘Goodfellas’: How Donovan Reacted to Martin Scorsese Using His Song in Such a Violent Scene

by Jeremy Spirogis
Scorsese with Pesci and De Niro

Music has at all times been an key aspect of Martin Scorsese movies. If you go all the best way again to his first function, Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1967), you will discover the legendary director utilizing Ray Barretto’s “El Watusi” to outstanding impact.

In the movie, the playful “El Watusi” performs on the soundtrack whereas the digicam pans throughout a scene of younger males consuming and speaking. As Barretto’s pachanga kicks into gear, Scorsese continues reducing, signaling the continuation of the social gathering. Eventually, somebody pulls out a gun.

Nonetheless, the lads hold consuming and laughing and “El Watusi” retains enjoying earlier than the gunplay will get critical. The man holding the gun begins menacing one other member of the group. Suddenly, the music cuts and a shot rings out, smashing a bottle. There’s nothing playful about it.

Among different issues, Scorsese drew fairly a distinction between the music’s tone and the motion on display. In Goodfellas, viewers bought extra of the identical in using Donovan’s “Atlantis.” You can think about Donovan, a folks singer who as soon as fashioned a commune, being greatly surprised by the violent scene by which “Atlantis” performs. But he wasn’t.

Donovan’s ‘Atlantis’ performs whereas characters pummel Billy Batts in ‘Goodfellas’

Scorsese with Pesci and De Niro
Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro, and Martin Scorsese pose collectively at Lincoln Center in 1998. | The LIFE Picture Collection by way of Getty Images

The turning level in Goodfellas arrives with the brutal homicide of Billy Batts (Frank Vincent) following his coming-home-from-prison social gathering. Batts tells Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) to go dwelling and get his shine field, Tommy goes ballistic, and returns to kill him within the bar later that night time.

Just earlier than Tommy enters the bar for the second time, the viewers hears a part of Donovan’s spoken-word second verse of “Atlantis.” With an ethereal drone behind him, Donovan speaks of “elders of our time” and “so-called gods of our legends, though gods they were.”

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Following a drum break, the band joins in and Donovan leads the refrain. “Way down below the ocean,” he sings along with his backing vocalists. “Where I wanna be, she may be.” It’s beautiful stuff, however on display we’re watching Tommy pummel Batts with the assistance of Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro).

The beating and stomping of Batts’ face proceed till he stops transferring. All the whereas, Donovan continues singing about being method down under the ocean, the place he desires to be. It’s onerous to think about an even bigger distinction.

Donovan abhors violence however needed Martin Scorsese to make use of ‘Atlantis’ as he noticed match

Donovan in 1967Donovan in 1967
Donovan performs on the 1967 National Jazz and Blues Festival at Royal Windsor Racecourse. | Robson/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

So how did Donovan, a singer-songwriter who began a hippie commune on a British island within the ’60s, really feel about “Atlantis” being utilized in that scene? In a 2010 oral historical past of Goodfellas in GQ, all of the rules weighed in on its placement within the movie.

To Scorsese, the director had needed to emphasise how the gangsters had been “like gods,” and that “gods fall.” Regarding the strains about eager to be “below the ocean, Scorsese brought up “the hypnotic nature of what [Tommy and Jimmy] were doing, that they couldn’t stop themselves.”

As for Donovan, he might have stated no to Scorsese’s request to license the music. Barring that, he might have requested he not use the music in a homicide scene. But he didn’t. “When I heard it was the master Scorsese asking for my song, I said to my publisher, ‘Whatever Martin wants, he can do it,’” Donovan informed GQ.

“Of course I don’t condone violence,” he added. “But artists are drawn to portray life, and at times filmmakers use contrasting music in a scene as juxtaposition.”

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