Posted on November 7, 2018
by Steve Janowick
All it takes is the first few ascending notes from that powerful brass section and my whole mental disposition changes.
Seriously. It’s funny how the actual chemical make-up of the brain can be altered by immediate stimuli entering the ears. And when my brain hears Gonna Fly Now by Bill Conti, a sense of perseverance, optimism, hope (and a good jolt of adrenaline) rushes through me. I feel, at that moment, like I could put my fist through a steel wall with ease! I feel like I can overcome! I feel like I can go the distance against this opponent called…life.
These chemical and physical reactions when I hear that song don’t just happen by chance. They’re the result of association. When that music kicks in, I’m not me anymore. I’m a ‘down on my luck’, street-punk, underdog training hard just to go the distance in the ring with an impossibly tough opponent. And that fictitious scenario translates perfectly into a powerful, relatable, real-life metaphor. A metaphor that has resonated with millions of men since Rocky first hit the big screens in 1976.
With his indelible screenplay, Sylvester Stallone was able to tap into, not just the psyches of us men, but also, that deep, guttural place where our fortitude, grit, and spirit lives. Combined with perfect direction from John Avildsen and a viscerally compelling soundtrack from Conti, Rocky is the best movie of all time (in my humble opinion) for tapping into all the positive emotions-within our total spectrum. It’s a beautiful love story enveloped around the backdrop of human endurance and sheer will, and if you don’t walk away from it feeling like an invigorated man each time you watch it-than you weren’t much of a man in the first place.
I remember watching it with my son a few years ago. He was around 12 at the time and I would peek over during some of the more powerful scenes. I saw him swallow a lump in his throat when Rocky purged his anger then poignantly forgave Micky. I saw his fists clinching when Rocky gave it his all during training. I saw his leg shake during the climactic, final rounds of the fight when the Rock’s endurance and heart were pushed to their absolute limits and, lastly, I saw his eyes well up and a few tears roll down his cheek when Rocky fulfilled his dream by going the distance and getting the girl.
And as the credits rolled, I smiled to myself and felt a tinge of pride and joy. Because at that moment, I knew my son was going to, one day, be the man I want him to be.
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