Dave Grusin - Writer

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Composer. Nationality: American. Born: Littleton, Colorado, 26 June 1934; son of Henri (a violinist) and Rosabelle (a pianist) Grusin. Education: University of Colorado, B. Music (piano), 1956; graduate study at Manhattan School of Music, 1959–60. Military Service: U.S. Navy, involved with air operations, 1956–58. Career: Pianist, keyboardist, composer, conductor, arranger, and record producer. Worked and performed with Quincy Jones, beginning in early 1960s;

Dave Grusin
Dave Grusin
worked and performed with numerous artists, including Mel Torme, Peggy Lee, Ruth Price, Sergio Mendes, Tom Scott, Gerry Mulligan, Lee Ritenour, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Jon Lucien, Roberta Flack, and Aretha Franklin; released over thirty albums, beginning with Subways Are for Sleeping (Epic, 1960); composer for over a dozen television series, including The Virginian (1962), Gidget (1965), The Wild, Wild West (1965), Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The (1966), It Takes a Thief (1968), Maude (1972), Good Times (1974), Baretta (1975), and St. Elsewhere (1982); conductor, The Andy Williams Show , 1963–1964; record producer, with Larry Rosen, beginning in 1976; owner, with Rosen, of GRP Records, Inc., 1983—; affiliated with N.Y./L.A. Dream Band, a septet of jazz-fusion artists; principal with N2K Inc. (record label), New York City. Awards: Grammy Award (with Paul Simon), Best Album or Original Instrumental Score for a Motion Picture or Television Special, for The Graduate , 1968; Academy Award, Best Original Score, for The Milagro Beanfield War , 1988; Grammy Award, Best Arrangement on an Instrumental, for "Suite from The Milagro Beanfield War " from Migration (album), 1989; Grammy Awards, Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals, for "My Funny Valentine" from The Fabulous Baker Boys Motion Picture Soundtrack (album) and Best Album of Original Instrumental Background Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television, for The Fabulous Baker Boys Motion Picture Soundtrack , 1989; Hollywood Discovery Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music in Film, Hollywood Film Festival, 1998; also winner of many other music awards, including several additional Grammy Awards, and recipient of honorary doctorates from University of California, Berkeley, 1988, and University of Colorado, 1989. Office: GRP Records, Inc., 555 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019. Agent: Gorfaine-Schwartz Agency, 3301 Barham Blvd., Suite 201, Los Angeles, CA 90068–1477, U.S.A.

Films as Composer:


Waterhole #3 ; Divorce American Style ; The Graduate (additional music); The Scorpio Letters (for TV)


The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter ; Candy ; Prescription: Murder ( Columbo: Prescription Murder ) (for TV); Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?


Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here ; The Mad Room ; Generation ( A Time for Caring ; A Man Called Gannon ; Winning


Double Jeopardy (for TV) (theme); Halls of Anger ; Adam at 6 A.M. ; The Intruders (for TV)


Deadly Dream (for TV); A Howling in the Woods (for TV); The Forgotten Man (for TV); The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight ; Sarge ( The Badge or the Cross ) (for TV); The Pursuit of Happiness ; Shootout


Fuzz ; The Family Rico (for TV); The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid


The Friends of Eddie Coyle


The Midnight Man ; The Nickel Ride ; The Death Squad (for TV)


The Trial of Chaplain Jensen (for TV); W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings ; The Yakuza ( Brotherhood of the Yakuza ; Three Days of the Condor ; Eric (for TV)


Murder by Death ; The Front


The Goodbye Girl ; Bobby Deerfield ; Fire Sale ; Mr. Billion ( The Windfall )


Heaven Can Wait


The Champ ; The Electric Horseman ; . . . And Justice for All


My Bodyguard


Absence of Malice ; On Golden Pond


Tootsie ; Author! Author!


Falling in Love ; Scandalous ; The Little Drummer Girl ; Racing with the Moon ; The Pope of Greenwich Village


The Goonies






The Milagro Beanfield War ; Tequila Sunrise ; Clara's Heart ; This is America, Charlie Brown (for TV)


The Fabulous Baker Boys ; A Dry White Season


Havana ; The Bonfire of the Vanities


For the Boys


The Firm


The Cure


Mulholland Falls


In the Gloaming (for TV); Hope (for TV) (theme); Selena


Hope Floats


Random Hearts

Other Films:


The Wiz (musician)


Falling in Love (orchestrator)


The Fabulous Baker Boys (musician)


The Firm (performer)


By GRUSIN: articles—

Yagiyu, S., "A Conversation with Dave Grusin," interview in Soundtrack (Stanford, California), vol. 7, no. 27, September 1988.

On GRUSIN: articles—

Lander, David, "Grusin and Rosen of GRP, the Musician's Label," in Audio (Philadelphia), March 1988.

Yanow, Scott, "Dave Grusin: Scoring It Big," in Down Beat (Chicago), July 1989.

Pulliam, Becca, "Maintaining Standards," in Down Beat (Chicago), May 1992.

Tiegel, Eliot, "Scoring in Hollywood," in Down Beat (Chicago), October 1993.

* * *

Academy Award winner Dave Grusin has combined classical music training, jazz virtuosity, and a popular culture sensibility to become one of the most prolific composers of the late twentieth century. Educated at the University of Colorado, Grusin was a classical piano major who developed an affinity for jazz, and played with such visiting artists as Art Pepper and singer Anita O'Day.

After moving to New York to pursue an academic career, Grusin found a job touring behind Andy Williams as a pianist and arranger. When he was asked to be Williams' musical director, Grusin moved to Hollywood to work on The Andy Williams Show. In 1964, Grusin left the popular program to score his first film, Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin's Divorce American Style . In 1967, Grusin was brought in to compose additional music for a film that became a hallmark of the 1960s, both musically and cinematically, The Graduate .

Grusin quickly rose to the ranks of one of Hollywood's premier and most prolific composers. By the time he received his first Oscar nomination in 1978 for Heaven Can Wait , he had worked on thirty films. The best of those were the result of his collaboration with Robert Redford, including Tell Them Willie Boy is Here (1969) and Three Days of the Condor (1975). In the latter, Grusin's jazz style shone through on the strength of Tom Scott's brilliant tenor saxophone. One of Grusin's personal favorites from this period was The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968), which featured an unforgettable love theme.

Grusin followed his 1978 Oscar nomination with another in 1979 for the tearjerker The Champ . During the 1980s, Grusin entered his most prolific period. He was nominated for three more Academy Awards for his scores for On Golden Pond (1981), The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989), and The Milagro Beanfield War (1988), for which he won the Oscar. Grusin was also nominated for Best Original Song for "It Might Be You" from Tootsie (1982). Other notable scores from this period include The Goodbye Girl (1977), Bobby Deerfield (1977), Reds (1981), and Racing with the Moon (1984). Grusin also continued his fruitful association with Redford, scoring most of the popular director's films.

The diversity of these films is mirrored by the wide range of Grusin's musical styles, tastes, and influences. In the jazzy score to The Fabulous Baker Boys , Grusin successfully mirrors the feel of the sexy standards performed by Michele Pfeiffer, while in The Milagro Beanfield War , Grusin's minimal use of music is offset by his lushly evocative themes conducted by John Scott with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Grusin's work from this period is also familiar to television audiences—he wrote the memorable theme songs for Good Times , Maude , Baretta , and St. Elsewhere .

During the 1990s, Grusin was nominated for two more Academy Awards for his scores for Havana and The Firm . And though his prolific output fell off somewhat, he continued to work on at least one film project a year throughout the decade.

Despite his cinematic successes, Grusin has remained true to his jazz roots. Highly respected in the jazz community, Grusin's successful recording and performing career has spanned three decades. He has won ten Grammy Awards, and collaborated with most of the world's major jazz talents.

Undoubtedly Grusin's strength as a film composer is his belief that he is at heart a great accompanist. He thinks of himself as writing music to accompany the visual and dramatic action of a movie. His scores can be broken down into two major styles: those influenced by jazz and the more intimate and sensitive orchestral scores redolent with strings. In both styles, Grusin never loses his gift for melody.

Though the Oscar and Grammy winner is certainly one of the most prolific and successful composers of the late twentieth century, it is his status as one of music's true Renaissance men that makes him unique among film composers, bringing with it the promise that each of his scores will take audiences into new areas of musical exploration.

—Victoria Price

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