Remembering Johnny Mandel

The SHOF was saddened to learn of the passing of 2010 SHOF inductee Johnny Mandel.

Born in New York City in 1925, Johnny Mandel was a member of Joe Venuti's orchestra, followed by employment as a player and/or arranger in bands led by Henry Jerome, Buddy Rich, Jimmy Dorsey, Woody Herman and Artie Shaw. 

Considered one of the finest arrangers of the second half of the 20th century, Johnny Mandel providing elegant orchestral charts for a wide range of vocalists including Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole and Hoagy Carmichael.

Mandel scored more than 30 films during his Hollywood career, including the 1960s films “The Americanization of Emily” (from which the hit song “Emily” emerged), “The Sandpiper” (which contained “The Shadow of Your Smile,” earning an Oscar and a Grammy for Song of the Year along with lyricist Paul Francis Webster), “Harper,” “An American Dream” (which included the Oscar-nominated song “A Time for Love”), “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming” and “Point Blank.”

In 1970 he scored “MASH,” which required a song that he cobbled together from a lyric by director Robert Altman’s 15-year-old son Michael. That tune, “Suicide Is Painless,” later became, in instrumental form, the theme for the long-running TV series and one of his most famous works.

His later film scores included “Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams,” “The Last Detail,” “The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea,” “Agatha” (including the song “Close Enough for Love,” now a standard), “Being There,” “Caddyshack,” “Deathtrap” and “The Verdict.”

In addition to the theme from “MASH,” he composed the themes for TV’s “Banyon” and “Too Close for Comfort” as well as scores for such series as “Markham” and “Chrysler Theatre.” He earned Emmy nominations for his 1980s TV-movie scores “A Letter to Three Wives,” “LBJ: The Early Years” and “Foxfire.” His other telefilms as composer included “Evita Peron,” “Christmas Eve” and “Kaleidoscope.”

He received the Golden Score Award from the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers in 1996; was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010; and named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2011.

His five Grammys included two for “The Sandpiper” (1965, song and score) and arranging honors for albums by Quincy Jones (1981), Natalie Cole (“Unforgettable,” 1991) and Shirley Horn (1992).

Throughout his film-scoring period (1958-1990) and beyond, Mandel continued to arrange for leading artists including Mel Torme, Anita O’Day, Nancy Wilson, Diana Krall, Michael Bolton, Barry Manilow and Manhattan Transfer. He also served on ASCAP’s board of directors for many years.

He is survived by his daughter, Marissa.