On September 24, 1987, people went to the movie theaters to watch a film titled The Princess Bride for the first time. While the movie had moderate box office success, the “classic film” status was not achieved till it’s release on home video. Romance, action, adventure, fantasy, comedy, this film has it all. Featuring lovable, quotable, and memorable characters such as Westley, Buttercup, Inigo Montoya, Fezik, Vizzini, and many more, this film didn’t need a soundtrack to make it good. However, that is exactly what it has.
The soundtrack features one of the most memorable movie songs of all time, Storybook Love. Mark Knopfler, lead vocalist and guitarist for the rock band Dire Straits, composed the score for this film. He came across a song titled Storybook Love. If you read the lyrics, you would think that the song was written specifically for the film. But it wasn’t. And let’s not forget the voice, that melodic and soulful voice. The hand that penned the words and the voice that sang them belong to same person, Willy Deville.
From: “Interview with Willy DeVille” – Rene, Sheila (1996)
“Knopfler heard (‘Storybook Love’) and asked if I knew about this movie he was doing. It was a Rob Reiner film about a princess and a prince. The song was about the same subject matter as the film, so we submitted it to Reiner and he loved it. About six or seven months later, I was half asleep when the phone rang. It was the Academy of Arts and Sciences with the whole spiel. I hung up on them! They called back and Lisa [his wife] answered the phone. She came in to tell me that I was nominated for ‘Storybook Love.’ It’s pretty wild. It’s not the Grammys — it’s the Academy Awards, which is different for a musician. Before I knew it, I was performing on the awards show with Little Richard. It was the year of Dirty Dancing, and they won.”
Storybook Love remains the most known song from Willy Deville. He had some success leading the punk band Mink DeVille and also did well touring in Europe as a solo act. His songs are a mix of old soul with Spanish rhythms, and a splash of the blues. I Call Your Name, Love and Emotion, Heaven Stood Still, Gypsy Deck of Hearts, Still (I Love You Still), those are just some of his emotion filled songs. His lyrics and voice draw you in and make you believe. You believe his words, you sense his hurt, you feel his pain.
He was well-respected by his fellow artists. In 2015, Bob Dylan said, “DeVille stood out, his voice and presentation ought to have gotten him in there [Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame] by now.”
Mark Knopfler said, “Willy had an enormous range. The songs he wrote were original, romantic, and straight from the heart.”
Willy Deville passed away in August of 2009, just weeks before his 59th birthday, from pancreatic cancer. In describing his own career, Willy said this: “I have a theory. I know that I’ll sell much more records when I’m dead. It isn’t very pleasant, but I have to get used to this idea.” In this writer’s humblest opinion, the career of Willy DeVille can best be summed up by the following quote, from critic Thom Jurek:
“Willy Deville is America’s loss even if America doesn’t know it yet.”
*** Bonus: Willy DeVille performing Storybook Love at the 1988 Academy Awards show. ***