From the kid-friendly Thermos flasks to the influence of Grease and Star Wars being released, attention is paid to every detail in bringing to life the period 1978 – 1980 in Love & Death. As we become acquainted with Wiley, Texas and its inhabitants, the attention naturally includes the production design and costumes in reconstructing the era in which this true story is set. And then, of course, there’s the music.
Given the town’s church-going devotion, the series is peppered with gospel songs sung by the cast. Right alongside ‘Gloria Patri’ and ‘Hallelujah’ are many and more hits from the ‘70s – everything from The BeeGees and Al Green to Dolly Parton and Carole King. It places us in the era and adds an upbeat tone to the story, almost denying what’s to come and lending a false sense of security to a town and characters that are about to have their masks ripped off and their secrets spilled.
With the murder of Betty Gore, the story takes its inevitable dark turn. The original score by Jeff Russo has led us to this moment, with notes of tension and trepidation, notes that continue as Wylie’s shocked inhabitants deal with the murder, the police try to find out who did it, and Candy grapples with her secret.
Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Candy, has admitted that before doing the show she was not a fan of disco. But being surrounded by its songs during filming, and having to bob her head and sing along, made her fall in love with it. And it’s easy to understand why, which is why we’ve compiled a playlist of some of the greatest titles featured in Love & Death. Enjoy!
Title Sequence: ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood' by Nina Simone
This song was originally written for and sung by Nine Simone in 1964, but it became popular again in the ‘70s when it was covered by disco group Santa Esmerelda. Listen to both below. The difference the genre flip makes is amazing.
Episode 1: ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’ by Leo Sayer
The song plays while Candy prepares for her affair. This includes preparing food, establishing one of her character motifs.
Episode 2: ‘I’m Hooked on You’ by Al Green
She’s at it again with the food, as we watch Candy bake cookies.
Episode 2: ‘Stayin’ Alive’ by The Bee Gees
Candy and Sherry go dancing. It’s still the ‘70s, after all!
Episode 3: ‘Baby I’m Burnin'’ by Dolly Parton
This song plays in the car while Candy is driving, another of the character’s motifs.
Episode 3: ‘I Feel the Earth Move’ by Carole King
This song does not actually feature in the soundtrack, but it’s the song Pat uses for his letter to Candy at their Marriage Encounter, trying to pass off the lyrics as his own words until Candy calls him out. Despite this, it leads to a really sweet, heartfelt moment between the two, in which Pat does eventually manage to express himself.
Episode 3: ‘Tapestry’ by Carole King
During the same scene, Candy references ‘Tapestry’ to explain how she feels. This is the title song from King’s album Tapestry, which also features ‘I Feel the Earth Move’. Later on, after Pat has discovered the affair but reconciled with Candy nevertheless, we hear it play.
Episode 3: ‘(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone’ by Paul Revere & The Raiders
The episode ends with Candy finally admitting her affair with Alan to Betty. As Betty takes out an axe, the episode ends, and this ‘60s track plays over the credits. It is also the inspiration for the episode title, Stepping Stone.
Episode 4: ‘Sunday Girl’ by Blondie
Candy driving again. The privacy of the car makes these moments a great vehicle (forgive the pun) for unreservedly displaying her emotions.
Episode 5: ‘Take a Chance on Me’ by ABBA
In episodes 4 and 5, the light-hearted hits have become noticeably fewer, but there’s no missing this ABBA classic that Candy sings along to.
With two more episodes to go, the soundtrack and score still have a lot to offer and it’ll be interesting to see how it’s worked into the looming trial. Keep on watching Love & Death on M-Net channel 101.
Watch Love & Death Express from the US on Fridays at 03:00 and in prime time on Mondays at 21:00 on M-Net. Episodes are available on Catch Up after the episode airs on Friday mornings, and on Tuesdays on Showmax.
Images: HBO Max