Obituary: Henry Mancini

HENRY MANCINI was an amazingly modest composer and never really acknowledged that he wrote songs, writes Brian Willey (further to the obituary by Tom Vallance, 16 June). He once said: 'I don't collaborate to write a song, I write a melodic film theme and somehow a lyricist comes along and turns it into a song.'

I first met Mancini in Rio de Janeiro in 1968. We were both there as part of an international jury at a newly founded song contest. I was there as a songwriter juror - but I was also a BBC Radio producer looking for interviews. I soon locked on to Hank, and he happily recounted stories of how his musical life had begun.

He had been raised on a melodic diet of Puccini and Rossini and both had a marked effect on his own composition. Arranging and composing, rather than performing, absorbed him totally and he got his professional start working under Tex Beneke, director of the the Glenn Miller orchestras during the Second World War.

Mancini's contribution to the art of film and television music was immense. The composer Quincy Jones sums it up well, when he writes:

Mancini freed the film and TV writers singlehandedly from having to imitate European musical idiom. He was the first to make use of American elements like saxophones and vibes in a modern manner. Those of us who came into the field from the dance band and jazz world should never forget that we all have Mancini to thank.

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