Johnny Mandel composer of “The Shadow of Your Smile” dies at age 94

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Johnny Mandel composer of
Johnny Mandel composer of "The Shadow of Your Smile" dies at age 94

Johnny Mandel, the famed composer and arranger behind the Oscar-winning song “The Shadow of Your Smile” and “Suicide Is Painless,” the theme from the M*A*S*H movie and television series, has died. He was 94.

Details of his death have not been released. The news was announced by musician and friend Michael Feinstein, who said: “A dear friend and extraordinary composer arranger and all-around brilliant talent Johnny Mandel just passed away. The world will never be quite the same without his humour, wit and wry view of life and the human condition. He was truly beyond compare, and nobody could write or arrange the way he did. Lord will we miss him. Let’s celebrate him with his music! He would like that.”

Another tribute was paid by singer Michael Bublé, who called him “a genius and one of my favourite writers, arrangers, and personalities. He was a beast.”

Mandel was born in New York in 1925, the son of an aspiring opera singer mother. He studied music at schools including Juilliard, and learned trumpet and trombone, finding early work with jazz bands and orchestras headed by Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Jimmy Dorsey and more. He also played in a group with Alan Greenspan, who went on to become a long-standing chair of the US Federal Reserve. “Alan was very bookish and a nice guy,” Mandel later remembered. He also did the payroll, so we always got paid on time.

Mandel began composing and arranging, and over the years created orchestral arrangements for Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett and more, but became most celebrated for film scoring. An early success was the 1964 James Garner and Julie Andrews film The Americanisation of Emily, and its theme song, Emily.

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