Last week The Big Lebowski celebrated its twentieth birthday. The film, that is. It is famous for its cult status and an actual religious fanbase in the form of Dudeism. A key factor in the film’s narrative, however, is its soundtrack, here’s how.
The Big Lebowski opens with a series of completely unrelated scenes considering the film’s plot. This footage of rolling tumbleweed rest on the western classic song Tumbling Tumbleweeds, which sets the tone for the movie's pace. It musically embodies the dude’s spirit - or better yet: his story as told by the cowboy-looking guy - in all of its tranquility.
[ Bob Dylan - The Man in Me ]
The film’s actual soundtrack, Bob Dylan’s The Man in Me, is in essence an ode to the Dude. Lyrics-wise it might clash with Jeffrey Lebowski’s actions, but the entirety of the song perfectly portrays his laidback vibe and thus thickens the plot.
Beyond soundtracks, the motion picture features two telling musical references: the Eagles and CCR. At one point in the movie [SPOILER] the Dude’s car gets stolen in the parking lot of his favourite bowling centre, and he is forced to take a taxi home. Yet when he sadly says “Man, come on. I’ve had a rough night, and I hate the f*cking Eagles, man”, the cab driver pulls over and throws him out. Then again, "that's just like his opinion, man".
[ Creedence Clearwater Revival - Lookin' Out My Backdoor ]
The latter, Creedence Clearwater Revival, forms the theme for the slapstick-like sketch in which the Dude crashes his car, shortly after he retrieved his stolen car. Even though he had supposedly lost a briefcase $100.000, he was lucky because “they didn’t take the Creedence tapes.” There were no leads though as to however could have done it.
The Coen Brothers, the movie's directors, also included two classical pieces in the motion picture's repertoire: Mozart's Requiem in D minor and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Both intensify the scene they occur in, by giving a "serious" twist to whatever happens to and around the Dude.
[ Kenny Rodgers & the First Edition - Just Dropped in (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) in "Gutterballs" ]
At one point in the film, during one of the “occasional acid flashbacks”, Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) by Kenny Rodgers & the First Edition, forms the soundtrack to the in-film short movie "Gutterballs". This particular psychedelic moment in the storyline definitely adds to The Big Lebowski cult status.
Furthermore, the film features music by Nina Simone, the Gypsy Kings, and ends with Town Van Zandt’s cover of the Rolling Stones’ Dead Flowers. If you haven’t seen it: it’s a must see. If you have, see it again. The dude abides.