The spot opens on a shot of dolphins breaching toward a rugged shoreline, followed by Armstrong, cycling alone beside a racing passenger train. As he continues on his journey, various groups of followers join him. A V of geese, for example, floats above him on a lonely road. On another stretch of his ride, a gang of Harley bikers surrounds Armstrong, while a herd of dust-kicking buffalo strains to keep up with him in another shot.
Gold says that Wieden + Kennedy is among the most collaborative agencies he's worked with. "They don't have preconceived notions about what they want the music to do, but the one thing we knew from the beginning was that it should be an almost literal translation of the imagery." Gold explored several different directions toward that end, including the possibility of remaking an existing track, before Elias Arts composer/associate creative director Dave Wittman joined the project to write an original score that best interpreted the narrative. What begins as a solo journey-Armstrong cycling alone-evolves into a collective one, and the instrumentation follows suit. The track opens with an acoustic guitar solo, played by Elias Arts senior composer Jimmy Haun, whose arpeggiated chords create a rolling sound to evoke a bicycle's wheels in motion. As others join Armstrong, we hear a piano melody, percussion and singer Kathy Fisher's deep, sultry vocals. When a swarm of cyclists envelop Armstrong in San Francisco, Wittman's score bursts into an energetic peak to reflect the imagery.
"I came into this thinking it would have to be simple," says Wittman, "and I wanted the sound to have the consistency and rhythm of cycling." His circular composition reflects that metaphor, breaking back down to the guitar solo at the final shot, which shows a young boy pedaling hard just behind his hero, who continues on alone.
Initially, Gold considered using a cappella voices, but the sound lacked a sense of building momentum that instruments could provide. Gold also scrapped the idea of remaking the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" because the familiar song didn't feel special enough. The track that came closest was Steve Winwood's "Can't Find My Way Home," from the now ancient days of Blind Faith, but in the end some of the lyrical content didn't sync. In particular, the point at which Winwood croons, "I'm wasted and I can't find my way home," was an inappropriate sentiment for the athlete whose mantra is "Live strong."
"There was interest in finding an existing song that would have the right feeling," says Gold, "but the end decision was made collectively that the track Dave composed just told the story better. Everyone knew it was right when they heard it."