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|Subject: Ray Conniff, songwriter/bandleader|
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Date Posted: October 15, 2002 1:21:57 EDT
In reply to: Michelle 's message, "Recent obituaries you might have missed seeing elsewhere" on October 15, 2002 1:00:40 EDT
Ray Conniff, the composer, trombone player and bandleader who recorded hits like "Somewhere My Love (Lara's Theme)," "Bésame Mucho," "New York, New York" and "S' Wonderful," died on Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 85.
In a six-decade career Mr. Conniff made more than 100 recordings and produced 25 Top-40 albums for Columbia Records.
He received a Grammy award for his recording of "Somewhere My Love," and had 10 gold and two platinum records. His 1962 album "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" was a hit for CBS records.
The Ray Conniff Orchestra and Singers epitomized the lounge-singing style of the 1950's and 60's with a mix of wordless vocal choruses and light orchestral accompaniment.
Though he got his start as a trombone player in the big-band era playing with Bunny Berigan, Bob Crosby and Artie Shaw, Mr. Conniff broke out on his own after being hired as a house arranger with Columbia Records in 1951.
He created the arrangements for Johnny Mathis's "Chances Are," Frankie Laine's "Moonlight Gambler," Guy Mitchell's "Singing the Blues" and Johnnie Ray's "Just Walking in the Rain," the last recorded with the Ray Conniff Orchestra.
In 1956, Columbia decided to try Mr. Conniff as a featured performer with his first album, "S' Wonderful," in which he combined a chorus of four men and four women with a traditional big-band mix of 18 instruments.
The debut album stayed on the Top-20 charts for nine months. A 1962 article in McCall's magazine described his "singers who `play' their voices as though they were instruments, more like subtly fluted woodwinds than singing."
Mr. Conniff's instrumental arrangements provided easy listening for a booming adult album market.
His popularity continued through the 1970's with recordings that included "Laughter in the Rain," "I Write the Songs," and "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing."
Mr. Conniff, who was born Nov. 6, 1916, in Attleboro, Mass., gained much of his musical knowledge from his father, a trombone player and leader of a local band. Mr. Conniff's mother played the piano.
Mr. Conniff led a band while in high school. He moved to Boston and began playing with Dan Murphy's Musical Skippers. He moved to New York in the mid-30's and landed a job playing and arranging for Berigan in 1937.
By 1939 he had moved to Hollywood to join Bob Crosby's Bobcats, one of the hottest bands of the time.
"He was always reinventing himself, that's how he was able to continue his popularity for so many years," said Warren Pischke, an official of the Ray Conniff fan club.
Mr. Conniff is survived by his wife, Vera, and a daughter, Tamara Conniff.
In one of his last appearances, he performed "Somewhere My Love" at the wedding of David Gest and Liza Minnelli in March.
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|B. H. Ridder Jr., 85, News Executive||-||October 15, 2002 1:23:50 EDT|
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