Top Gun Image (Photo: Paramount Pictures)

His name is Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (played by Tom Cruise) and he is back where he belongs, in the skies of the Big Screen — which immediately makes me think of Springfield’s own Tom Whitlock.

Whitlock, a lyricist, struck it big in “Top Gun.” He helped write five of the songs in the 1986 hit film, starring Cruise, including “Take My Breath Away,” for which he and Giovanni Moroder won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for best original song.

He and Moroder also wrote “Danger Zone,” recorded by Kenny Loggins.

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 2014 celebrated its 100-year anniversary by listing the top 100 songs ever.

“Take My Breath Away” was No. 26.

On the list, it’s tucked between “Get Ready” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracle at 25 and “My Guy” by Mary Wells at No. 27.

The No. 1 song?

“Happy birthday.”

(No, I’m not wishing you a happy birthday, unless by some fluke today is your birthday. I mean the song “Happy Birthday.”)

Springfield connection

Whitlock, 68, grew up here; graduated from Glendale High; and went to Drury.

I met him in 2014 while I reported on the life of Springfield musician and producer Lou Whitney, who had just died.

Whitlock knew Whitney. Whitlock owned the building on South Avenue where Whitney had his recording studio.

I tried to reach Whitlock on Monday for this column but was unable to do so.

Just so you know, Whitlock was not involved with the recently-released “Top Gun: Maverick” sequel.

He did give an extensive interview in 2018 to a website called “Rediscover the 80s,” in which he talks about “Top Gun” and those memorable songs.

He said:

“‘Danger Zone’ came from the track that Giorgio cooked up for the opening carrier deck scenes. I wrote the lyrics and Joe Pizzulo sang the demo and they flew it against those opening scenes and it worked.”

Actors called back for love scene and song

“… A few days after we figured out ‘Danger Zone,’ Giorgio started the track that became ‘Take My Breath Away,'” Whitlock continued. “I wrote the lyrics driving home from the studio and then spent a few hours at home that night polishing it off.

“We did a demo with a background singer and a few days later Tony Scott (director) and crew reconvened with Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis to shoot the new love scenes — the movie had been considered done until they heard ‘Take My Breath Away.’

“If you see those scenes, you’ll notice that they are lit differently and there are those gauzy curtains blowing around — all of that was to disguise that some months had gone by and the actors didn’t look exactly the same.

“It took a bit to get to the right singer. Columbia had one of their artists in mind but she wanted to change the melody and write new lyrics! We didn’t call her back.”

They chose the band “Berlin,” with vocals by Terri Nunn.

Although I haven’t yet seen the sequel, I am told that the character of Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, who (spoiler alert from the year 1986) dies in the original movie, has a character who plays his son in the sequel.

That son is a character by the name of “Lt. Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw.”

That’s right. Brad Bradshaw.

I wish I could tell you that in addition to being a Navy pilot in the movie that he is also a lawyer and a doctor.

I wish I could tell you that a major plot point involves the geographic coordinates of 333-3333.

But I won’t do that. I think it would be so unfair to Aaron Sachs. Also, it’s not true.

This is Pokin Around column No. 46.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at spokin@sgfcitizen.org. His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin