Michael Kamen was someone who crossed the lines between rock andclassical music when it was a truly revolutionary idea, and he kept onbreaking down barriers his whole career. A Juilliard-trained oboist, in1968 he formed the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble, which appeared withLeonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, and whom I saw twice,once backing Janis Ian at Philharmonic (now Avery Fisher) Hall. One ofthe band’s running jokes was that they had two oboists: lead andrhythm.
He scored his first film in 1976 and since then wrote the music formore than 70 movies, including such blockbusters as the LethalWeapon and Die Hard series, X-Men and Brazil.He won four Grammys, two Golden Globes and an Emmy. Following the 1995Oscar-nominated Mr. Holland’s Opus, he created, with starRichard Dreyfuss, a foundation that donates musical instruments toneedy schoolchildren.
He continued to jump genres with glee, writing symphonic works forMetallica, Eric Clapton and The Chieftains, and film scores with thelikes of Blondie’s Chris Stein, to name but a few. Perhaps my favoritework of Kamen’s is the brilliant orchestrations and arrangements hebrought to Pink Floyd’s monumental The Wall. Soon after thatrecord came out, I interviewed him at length for a music magazine, andhe invited me to sit in on a Tim Curry session for “Working on MyTan,” which he was producing. It was one of the most fun sessionsI’ve ever seen. In Michael, I found a playful, thoughtful, intellectualand brilliant musician, with ferocious eyebrows and a great smile who,given the chance, I could talk shop with, and laugh with, for manyhours.
Michael had recently been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, veryrare for someone his age, but it was a heart attack that caused hisdeath in November.
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