Johnny Mandel at 1966 GRAMMYs
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Johnny Mandel, GRAMMY-Winning Film Composer Of 'M*A*S*H' Theme, Is Dead At 94
GRAMMY- and Oscar-winning composer Johnny Mandel died on Monday at his home in Ojai, Calif. at the age of 94, the New York Times reports. He composed and arranged music for jazz bands and pop singers like Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Tony Bennett, but is most remembered by his classic movie scores and themes.
Two of his most celebrated works include "Suicide Is Painless," the theme song for the 1970 film M*A*S*H and its long-running TV series spin-off, and "The Shadow of Your Smile," the oft-covered GRAMMY-winning theme song for the 1965 film The Sandpiper. He also scored both films, winning a second GRAMMY for latter score, as well as nomination for the former.
Born in New York City in 1925, a young Mandel got his start in music playing trumpet in the Catskills while many musicians were overseas for World War II. Soon after, he joined jazz bands in the City, before focusing exclusively on arranging and composing in 1954, according to the Times. Four years later, he moved to Southern California and began his career writing music for Hollywood.
Shortly after, he received his first three GRAMMY nominations in 1959 at the 1st GRAMMY Awards, for his debut film score, 1958's noir I Want To Live!
His next three GRAMMY nominations—and first two wins—came at the 1966 GRAMMY Awards, for "The Shadow of Your Smile," which won Song Of The Year, and The Sandpiper's score, which won Best Original Score. The theme also earned him an Oscar for Best Original Song.
A romantic number, "The Shadow of Your Smile" has been covered by countless artists, including Bennett (Manel arranged his version as well) Stevie Wonder, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass Band, Sinatra and his daughter Nancy Sinatra. Mandel said the song was inspired by the scenic Northern California coast: "I saw that gorgeous panorama, shooting from Big Sur out on to the ocean. How do you write that? I figured, you write it with a solo voice ... I'd try to translate that into what it looked like."
Following the two GRAMMYs he won in 1966, Mandel earned three more career GRAMMYs, in 1982, 1992 and 1993. The 1992 GRAMMY Awards win, for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocal(s), came from his arrangement on Natalie Cole's "Unforgettable," based on her father Nat King Cole's hit of the same name. Thanks to overdubbing, the powerful track features her father's vocals alongside hers.
Other films he scored include The Americanization of Emily (1964), Point Blank (1965), Freaky Friday (1977) and Caddyshack (1980).