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(E) Composer Michael Kamen Dies
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  11/18/2003 | In Memoriam | Unrated
(E) Composer Michael Kamen Dies


Composer Michael Kamen Dies

Michael conducting in Italy 1995. Jovanotti, Bach, Meatloaf, Bolton, Zucchero, Pavarotti

Michael, wrote an orchestral arrangement for my song Can We Go Higher? that I performed in 1995 in Italy. The photo is performance of his song The Bridge on the same night. He was talented, charitable and very good natured. He died today in London. We who new him will miss him tremendously.

Nenad Bach,

New York Nov 18th 2003

Kamen, was best known for his movie soundtracks as well as his work with bands such as Aerosmith and Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, David Bowie...

Oscar-nominated composer, conductor and arranger Michael Kamen died this morning (Nov. 18) after suffering from multiple sclerosis for several years, his agent said. He was 55. Further details were not immediately available.

One of Hollywood's most successful composers, Kamen worked on music for the "Lethal Weapon" series and scored "Die Hard," among many other films. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1996, but did not go public about the disease until late September.

Kamen grew up in Queens, the son of liberal activists. In the late 1960s, he helped found the New York Rock'n'Roll Ensemble. In the 1970s, he scored ballets, served as musical director for David Bowie's Diamond Dogs tour and began writing scores for film.

Although he began in Hollywood working on offbeat films like "Polyester" and "Brazil," he turned more mainstream in the 1980s, working on the "Lethal Weapon" series, "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," "Mr. Holland's Opus" and "X-Men," plus the HBO series "Band of Brothers."

In 1999, Kamen conducted the San Francisco Orchestra as it backed hard rock act Metallica on its live "S&M" project. Recorded across two concerts that reworked the band's canon for symphonic arrangement, the resulting album peaked at No. 2 and has sold 2.6 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.

COPYRIGHT: (c) Reuters 2003.

Grammy-winning composer Michael Kamen dies at 55 in London

AP Entertainment Writer

Michael Kamen, the Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated composer who fused hard-rock riffs with classical styling in albums for Pink Floyd and provided music for "Mr. Holland's Opus" and the "Lethal Weapon" and "Die Hard" movies," has died at age 55.

He collapsed in his London home Tuesday from an apparent heart attack, according to his Los Angeles-based publicist, Jeff Sanderson.

Kamen collaborated with a wide range of artists, from the London Philharmonic to Aerosmith, Metallica, Pink Floyd and jazz saxophonist David Sanborn.

Although he was classically trained and studied oboe at New York's Julliard School, the composer's distinctive long, curly hair and beard made him look more like a heavy-metal guitarist than a classical conductor.

He was known for combining those two sensibilities. Among his most famous collaborations was on the orchestral arrangements in Pink Floyd's 1979 album "The Wall." He also worked with the band on the albums "The Final Cut" and "The Division Bell."

Kamen's most recent Grammy win came in 2001, which he shared with Metallica for best rock instrumental performance. He won for conducting the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in the metal-rock band's song "The Call of Ktulu."

He also had Grammy wins in 1996 for best instrumental arrangement with "An American Symphony," which he derived from his work on the Richard Dreyfuss musical drama "Mr. Holland's Opus." His first award was in 1992 for best pop instrumental performance for the theme music to "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves."

Dreyfuss portrayed a passionate teacher who sacrificed his own ambitions to engage the imagination of his students through music. Inspired by the hit movie, Kamen established the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation in 1997 to raise money to make musical instruments available to the nation's children.

He also worked with singer Bryan Adams to help craft the movie theme songs "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" from "Robin Hood" and "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" from "Don Juan DeMarco." He received Oscar nominations for co-writing those songs.

Kamen also worked with such pop, jazz and rock stars as Sting, Rod Stewart, David Bowie and Eric Clapton.

Born in New York City in 1948, he said he learned to play piano at age 2 and later added the guitar, clarinet and oboe. Among his parents' friends were the musicians Huddie Ledbetter and Pete Seeger and he grew up listening to records of music by Bach and Gilbert and Sullivan.

He played folk-blues in a jug band while simultaneously studying oboe at Julliard, and later experimented with techno, disco and rock while writing pure classical music for ballet performances.

His first full film score was for the 1976 Sean Connery political thriller "The Next Man." Other movie credits include "Brazil," "Highlander," "Someone to Watch Over Me," the animated "The Iron Giant," the recent Western "Open Range" and the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers." Two upcoming films include Meg Ryan's "Against the Ropes" and the comedy "First Daughter."

Recently, he was also working on stage musicals based on "Mr. Holland's Opus" and "Don Juan DeMarco."

Kamen is survived by his wife, Sandra Keenan-Kamen, two daughters, his father Saul Kamen and three brothers. Funeral services were unspecified Tuesday.

Posted on Sat, Oct. 25, 2003

Composer Michael Kamen breaks his silence about MS
By Patrick Goldstein

Hollywood is a town where everybody knows everybody else's business, from who's having an affair (and with whom) and where to go for the best Botox to who has the juice to get your kid into the most elite private school. But there is one last taboo in Hollywood: Being sick.

Even now, no one knows for sure what mystery illness put Miramax's Harvey Weinstein into a hospital, keeping him out of action for several months in early 2000. When Steven Spielberg had one of his kidneys removed in February 2000, even industry insiders were kept in the dark. When Disney czar Michael Eisner had emergency quadruple bypass surgery in 1994, he registered at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center under an assumed name; when the news made the papers, Disney staffers took great pains to make Eisner look in control, telling reporters the boss was dictating instructions to his top lieutenants from his bed.

For years, rumors swirled that Kathleen Turner was an alcoholic; it turned out she had rheumatoid arthritis. "But it seemed wiser to let people think I was drinking too much, rather than let them know I was ill," she told a reporter after the news was out. "In this business, they'll hire you if you drink, but take two steps back if you're ill."

So it's not surprising that even though Michael Kamen, one of Hollywood's most successful composers, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1996, he didn't speak openly about the disease. In fact, Kamen didn't go public, or as he puts it, "come out of the closet," until last month, when he was awarded the Dorothy Corwin Spirit of Life Award at the annual Dinner of Champions fund-raising event benefiting the Southern California chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. MS is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system that causes various disabilities, depending on the severity or progressive nature of the case.

Falling ... and smiling

Kamen's reticence about the disease carried over to his private life as well. Even after the 55-year-old composer began using a hand-carved walking stick to get around, he still couldn't bring himself to tell his parents about the disease. Finally a friend convinced him to level with his father, an 87-year-old dentist who still lectures on dentistry for the aged.

"I needed to tell him," says Kamen, who lives in London with his wife and two daughters, but has a home in the San Fernando Valley. "I couldn't keep saying I was carrying a stick around because there was so much ice in England to fall on. It was a relief not to carry that burden around. Trust me, I've been there. The worst deception we have is self-deception."

Sitting near a piano in his living room where he plays Bach concertos each morning, Kamen manages to punctuate his most serious remarks with an infectious grin. Even when Kamen took a tumble making his way up a series of steps at the MS dinner, he came up smiling. As his good friend, director Richard Donner, who caught him before he hit the floor, put it: "Even as he fell, he was smiling. It was like Michael was thinking, 'This is the funniest thing I've ever done, not the most tragic.'"

Kamen grew up in Queens, N.Y., where his parents were liberal activists. His mother lost her teaching license during the height of the McCarthy era. His father knew Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly; Pete Seeger led the fireside sings at Kamen's summer camp.

As a boy, he would visit his Aunt Anna's house on Manhattan's Riverside Drive, curling up in the corner by the piano -- the piano that sits in his living room here -- listening to her friends play in a string quartet. In the late 1960s, Kamen helped found the New York Rock 'n' Roll Ensemble. In the 1970s, he scored ballets, served as musical director for David Bowie's "Diamond Dogs" tour and began writing scores for film.

'Gently flipping out'

Although he began his Hollywood career working on such offbeat films as "Polyester" and "Brazil," he turned to more popular fare in the mid-1980s. He collaborated with Donner on the "Lethal Weapon" series, as well as scoring "Die Hard," "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," "Mr. Holland's Opus" and "X-Men," plus the HBO series "Band of Brothers."

In 1996, visiting his parents in New York, he walked into a grocery store and found himself seeing black spots before his eyes. After he returned to London, he saw his doctor, who ran a battery of tests and then sent him to a neurologist. Riding in a taxi to the appointment, Kamen scanned his doctor's findings. One dryly worded phrase stopped him in his tracks: "Presumed diagnosis: MS." Kamen spent the rest of the taxi ride in something akin to an altered state.

"I sat there, assuming I was going to die," he recalls in a soft voice. "I was gently flipping out. I was totally unaware of how MS could be treated, unaware of the progressive nature of the disease. I just kept thinking that this death sentence had been pronounced on me."

And then, somewhere before I got to the doctor's office, I decided -- (expletive) it, I'm going to live."

Since then, Kamen has worked at managing the disease. He injects himself with Beta Seron and Avonex, drinks an experimental animal serum ("I call it my goat juice") and has abandoned red meat for a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. He also began a vigorous workout regime that helped him shed 40 pounds.

Learning life's meaning

The weight loss was a double-edged sword. He felt better than ever, but his newly slenderized physique prompted other concerns.

Donner met Kamen for dinner three years ago and couldn't help but notice his weight loss and the cane at his side. "I asked him, 'What the hell did you do?' And he told me he had MS," Donner recalls. "For me, it was like the world had stopped. But not for Michael. Even though there are moments where you see past his smile, Michael has never felt sorry for himself. Michael is always looking at the drink half-full. He's not a half-empty person."

Kamen covers any pangs of suffering with a wry smile. At one point, recounting the time his daughter raced after him on Portobello Road in London to say that his idol, Bob Dylan, was on the phone, Kamen explains, "I ran all the way to the house, back in the days when I could run."

The composer says he has no knowledge of having missed out on any jobs because of having MS. "If I lost one, I bet I got another one in return."

His studio work has slowed in recent years. But he did the score for Kevin Costner's "Open Range," wrote the music for the opening ceremonies at the 2002 Winter Olympics and is now turning "Mr. Holland's Opus" into a Broadway musical. He's also collaborating on new projects with Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

Kamen travels extensively and carries a workload most composers would envy, but he acknowledges that he sometimes feels a nagging sense of compressed time.

He says he's also more direct with people. "I'm not always especially calm or kind, and I certainly don't mince words anymore. If someone doesn't deliver on what they've promised, I'm perfectly willing to say ..." He utters a profanity. "MS reminds you that life is really about your family and the people you have the pleasure to collaborate with."

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