Kenny Loggins plays Warner Theatre as ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ enters the ‘Danger Zone’

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Kenny Loggins at Warner Theatre (Part 1)

It’s a big week for Kenny Loggins as “Danger Zone” is featured in the No. 1 box-office blockbuster “Top Gun: Maverick” at the same time as his new book “Still Alright: A Memoir.”

That’s also the theme of his new concert tour “Still Alright: An Intimate Evening of “Stories & Songs,” which arrives in the nation’s capital at Warner Theatre next Tuesday, June 7.

“I tried to do it in a different format,” Loggins told WTOP. “The show will be part interview, then the stories with that interview, then the subsequent songs with those stories. We talked a lot about how the hell do we build this thing? This is not the norm. … You’ve got to come to the ‘Stories & Songs’ show because it’s unique. It’s never going to happen again.”

Born in Everett, Washington in 1948, Loggins discovered music at an early age.

“I have two big brothers, but one big brother is four years older than me,” Loggins said. “He was very influential in getting me into music and actually taught me to sing harmony when I was about 5 years old. … I learned a lot of music as a little kid because of him. … My dad was a big Bing Crosby fan. He turned me on to Crosby when I was knee-high.”

Loggins wrote some of his first songs for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

“I wrote four songs for their ‘Uncle Charlie’ album and got to know those guys,” Loggins said. “That was the most high-profile recordings of my material up until that point.”

Soon, he joined Jim Messina to form the highly successful duo Loggins & Messina.

“Jimmy Messina had produced the last Buffalo Springfield album and played bass on it, so I was trying to reach him to talk about making a record together,” Loggins said. “At the same time, he had changed his deal with Clive Davis and Columbia Records to be a producer deal, so he was looking for acts to produce, and I was looking for a producer.”

Together, their hits included “Danny’s Song” and “Your Mama Don’t Dance.”

“We were at rehearsal waiting for the band to show up,” Loggins said. “Jimmy had that idea of that line, ‘Your mama don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock ‘n roll,’ and he was approaching it like an early Elvis kind of thing or ‘Kansas City’ [by] Wilbert Harrison. By just sort of jamming on that waiting for the guys to show up, we wrote this song.”

Loggins left Messina to record “Whenever I Call You Friend” with Stevie Nicks before winning Song of the Year at the Grammys with Michael McDonald on The Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes” (1980), followed by another Grammy for “This Is It” (1981).

“It’s very difficult for artists to go solo out of successful duos,” Loggins said. “When I did ‘Whenever I Call You Friend,’ which I originally wrote to do with Michael, but Michael passed on it, so I wrote it with Melissa Manchester, we got that to Stevie and did it as a duo, but that was before any of the movie stuff, right at the beginning of my solo career.”

Still, his biggest success came creating movie soundtracks, starting with the song “I Believe In Love” for the Barbra Streisand remake of “A Star is Born” (1976).

“That was Barbra Streisand and Jon Peters, her boyfriend,” Loggins said. “I got a call from Barbra. … She was meeting with pop songwriters, asking if they had anything unfinished … or could write a song for a particular scene. We sat together for two days solid. I had much of the ‘Celebrate Me Home’ album in the works, so I had ‘I Believe In Love.'”

When Peters left Streisand, the first movie that he produced was the golf comedy “Caddyshack” (1980), tapping Loggins to write the song “I’m Alright” for the soundtrack.

“I saw a rough cut, it didn’t have a gopher in it, it didn’t have an ending, but I laughed my ass off, I thought it was really funny,” Loggins said. “I wrote three things for the movie. One was ‘The Love Theme from Caddyshack,’ which was … a melody I showed Barbra two years before as a ballad melody for ‘A Star is Born,’ but she already had ‘Evergreen.'”

He next created the Oscar-nominated title track for Kevin Bacon in “Footloose” (1984).

“Dean Pitchford wrote the screenplay [and] we wrote songs for the bar-room scene at the 1/3 mark where the kids sneak out and go dancing in a town nearby,” Loggins said. “‘Footloose’ was a melody for that scene … but when we went to the premiere, I saw that the director liked the song so much that he opens the movie with it with the feet tapping.”

Still, his most iconic tune remains “Danger Zone” for Tom Cruise in “Top Gun” (1986).

“That song was primarily written by Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock,” Loggins said. “I got a call from Giorgio saying we have to dub this thing into the movie in three days and we don’t have a singer. … I jumped out of the studio, went down and met with Tom … next day I’m in the studio with Giorgio. … I went in, sang it, two days later it’s in the movie.”

He was recently flattered when Cruise thanked him for the soundtrack.

“Six years ago, he and I did [Jimmy] Kimmel accidentally together,” Loggins said. “Backstage I said, ‘I hear you’re making ‘Top Gun.’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Is ‘Danger Zone’ going to be in it?’ He said, ‘It wouldn’t be ‘Top Gun’ without ‘Danger Zone.’ He held true to that. He wanted to use the original ‘Danger Zone’ so he could reconjure the original vibe.”

Now, the song returns in the legacy sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” (2022).

“It’s a great movie,” Loggins said. “The new ‘Maverick’ just blew me away. In my opinion, it is definitely high octane because we have new technology, we have new jets, now women are pilots as well. It’s just brilliantly written in the ilk of ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Indiana Jones,’ that kind of cliffhanger excitement thing, one after the other, really well done.”

What’s it like sitting in a movie theater and hearing your song playing?

“Have you ever had an orgasm?” Loggins said. “It’s similar to that.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Kenny Loggins at Warner Theatre (Part 2)

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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