Born April 16, 1924 in Cleveland,
Died June 14, 1994 in California
From the Henry Mancini page on All Music Guide:
If the recognition of one's peers is the true measure of success, then few men are as successful as composer, arranger, and conductor Henry Mancini. In a career that spanned 40 years, writing for film and television, Mancini won four Oscars and twenty Grammys, the all-time record for a pop artist. For 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's alone, Mancini won five Grammys and two Oscars. Breakfast at Tiffany's includes the classic "Moon River" (lyrics by Johnny Mercer), arguably one of the finest pop songs of the last 50 years. At last count, there were over 1000 recordings of it. His other notable songs include "Dear Heart," "Days of Wine and Roses" (one Oscar, two Grammys), and "Charade," the last two with lyrics by Mercer. He also had a #1 record and won a Grammy for Nino Rota's "Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet." Among his other notable film scores are The Pink Panther (three Grammys), Hatari! (one Grammy), Victor/Victoria (an Oscar), Two for the Road, Wait Until Dark, and 10. His television themes include "Peter Gunn" (two Grammys, recorded by many rock artists), "Mr. Lucky" (two Grammys), "Newhart," "Remington Steele," and "The Thorn Birds" television mini-series.
As a child, Mancini learned how to play a variety of musical instruments and as a teenager, he became enamored with jazz and big bands. He began to write arrangements and sent a few to Benny Goodman, who wrote the teenager back, encouraging him to pursue a career in music. Mancini enrolled in the Julliard School of Music in 1942, but his studies were cut short when he served in the military during World War II. After the war, he was hired by Tex Beneke, the leader of the Glenn Miller orchestra, as the as a pianist and arranger. In the late '40s, he began writing scores for record and film studios, first for a recording session by the Mel-Tones, which featured his wife Ginny O'Connor, and then the Abbot and Costello film Lost in Alaska, the first movie he scored.
Lost in Alaska led to more film scores, in particuar 1954's The Glenn Miller Story and 1956's The Benny Goodman Story, which both showcased his big band roots. Soon, he was working on a large number of films and television, including Orson Welles' Touch of Evil and the TV show Peter Gunn. Mancini's scores frequently straddled the line between jazz and Hollywood dramatics, making his music both distinctive and influential.
Mancini's heyday was the early '60s, when his score for Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) yielded the Oscar-winning hit single "Moon River," which instantly became a pop standard. The following year, he wrote the music for Days of Wine and Roses, which also won an Oscar for its title song. Throughout the next three decades, he continued to be one of the most successful film composers in the world, as well as a popular concert conductor. He continued working until his death in 1994; just prior to his demise, he was writing the score for the musical adaption of Victor/Victoria.
What kept Mancini's work fresh was his ability to
write in almost any style imaginable and his successful
experimentations with unusual sounds and instruments. In his 1989
memoir Did They Mention the Music?, Mancini's co-author
Gene Lees wrote that "More than any other person, he Americanized
film scoring, and in time even European film composers followed in
his path," and that Mancini wrote scores that "contained almost as
many fully developed song melodies as a Broadway musical." Had he not
remained true to his first love, film scoring, Mancini would have
more than likely made as large an impact on the Broadway stage as he
made on the silver screen. -- Kenneth M. Cassidy & Stephen
Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide
Note: several other
biographical sections on Henry Mancini can be found within "The Henry
Mancini Songbook", "Sounds and Scores", the booklet that comes
packaged with the "Days of Wine and Roses" 3 CD boxed set, as well as
the "Did They Mention the Music?" biography.
Tidbits and Trivia
In the 1988 PBS tv special "Mancini and Friends", Quincy Jones said (in
speaking about all of Mancini's awards): ". . . In fact, Hank's been
nominated for more GRAMMYs than any other artist". For
a list of the specific GRAMMY Awards that Hank won, click
As of 1987,
Henry Mancini received seven gold records, each signifying over a
million dollars in sales.
received four Oscars in his lifetime; one for best original score
("Breakfast at Tiffany's"), best song for "Moon River", best song for
"Days of Wine and Roses", best song score for"Victor/Victoria"
"The Music From Peter Gunn" is one of the best selling albums in all
of RCA's recording history.
"Peter Gunn" from
"The Music From
Peter Gunn" is the featured
soundtrack for an Apple Computer PowerBook television commercial
entitled "Steamroller" - made in the late 1990s - which touted the
speed of the new G3 processor.
Henry Mancini could accept only one out of every ten offers given to
him to compose a film score.
In season two of the tv show "The Simpsons" - Mancini is mentioned by
name in the episode "Dancin' Homer". The quote from the episode is
"Mancini - The Mascot's Best Friend." And "Baby Elephant Walk"
is played several times throughout the episode. In another
episode, Mancini's "NBC Mystery Movie Theme" is played at the end of
In November 2002, "The Pink
Panther Theme" from
Panther" was heard as the
soundtrack for a Heineken beer commercial.
Also in November 2002, Mancini's
theme from the "Newhart" tv show could be heard in the background
when CBS' Sunday Morning Show interviewed comedian Bob Newhart.
Mancini's "Theme From
Peter Gunn" is the background music for a 1980's Nintendo NES video
game called "Spy Hunter".
Mancini's "Moon River" is
being sung by Audrey Hepburn in a short clip featured on CBS' Sunday
Morning Show (April 2003) which talked about an auction for charity
of some of Audrey's personal effects.
Mancini's "Theme from 'The
Pink Panther'" and "Theme from 'Peter Gunn'" were heard on Sunday
morning August 31, 2003 on CBS' Sunday Morning tv show in a humor
story about small town crime.
Fact: Mancini's "Theme from ''Peter Gunn'" can be heard as part of the soundtrack for the documentary film "Farenheit 9/11".
Fact: Mancini's "Theme from ''Peter Gunn'" is now a part of the Smithsonian Institution's collection of American historical recordings.
* * *
Mancini music & performance heard on "Le Show"!!
A good bit of Henry Mancini & Orchestra's own performance of "A Shot in the Dark" main title theme was heard at the tail end of Harry Shearer's broadcast of "Le Show" on
Sunday, February 17, 2008.
* * *
Henry Mancini's "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
theme played on a radio commercial for the public broadcasting program
"This American Life" during the week of February 19, 2008.
* * *
Henry Mancini's "Charade" was performed by Marian McPartland and her guest Robin Meloy Goldsby on an episode of Marian McPartland's "Piano Jazz" in January 2009. In addition, a nice story was told about Marian's guest Robin meeting Henry Mancini when she was playing at a piano bar.