The Songwriters Hall of Fame was saddened to learn of the passing of 1990 inductee Michel Legrand, composer of scores for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Yentl and The Thomas Crown Affair, among many others.
Michel Legrand, native and resident of Paris, was one of the most successful foreign-born composers ever to grace the American best-seller lists. From his very first success in the United States with the memorable album I Love Paris in 1954, his productivity continued unabated throughout his life. He garnered three Oscar Awards, three Grammy Awards and an Emmy nomination along the way to prove it.
One of his most unforgettable works is the score for the classic 1964 film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which marked his first recognition from the Motion Picture Academy. He won his first Academy Award for Best Song for "The Windmills of Your Mind," which appeared in the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair. He later picked up the Oscar for Best Original Dramatic Score, for the movie The Summer of '42, and years later, in 1984, he won for Best Original Song Score for the Barbra Streisand movie Yentl, a work which Time Magazine called, "the most romantic, coherent and sophisticated movie score since Gigi a quarter century ago."
But Legrand is remembered almost as well for a number of songs that didn't win Oscar awards (although some were nominated). Among the more notable are "Pieces of Dreams," "Brian's Song," "What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life," "I Will Wait for You," "Watch What Happens" (both from Umbrellas) and from the movie The Young Girls of Rochefort, the well-remembered "You Must Believe in Spring." One of Legrand's most recent hit songs is the melodic "How Do You Keep The Music Playing," from Best Friends.
In addition to his prodigious writing skills, Legrand was a conductor of renown and a virtuoso jazz pianist. He has conducted and appeared with such ensembles as The Pittsburgh Symphony, The Minnesota Orchestra, The Buffalo Philharmonic and the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Denver, New Orleans, Montreal and Vancouver.
He had made well over 100 albums and has collaborated with such major stars as Maurice Chevalier, Miles Davis, Kiri Te Kanawa, Sarah Vaughan, Stan Getz, Jack Jones, James Galway, Ray Charles, Lena Horne along with the afore-mentioned Barbra Streisand, whose album Till I Loved You features the Legrand song, "On My Way to You," (which was written for Maureen McGovern) with lyrics by frequent Michel Legrand collaborators, Marilyn and Alan Bergman.
Many other performers of prominence have also recorded songs by Michel Legrand. These include Frank Sinatra, Cleo Laine, Oscar Peterson, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney and Henry Mancini, among others. Sting recorded “The Windmills of Your Mind” for his 2001 release Brand New Day.
His last credited work before his death was for the 2018 French film J’ai Perdu Albert. Legrand also recently contributed the score to Orson Welles’ posthumously released The Other Side of the Wind.