Jack Nitzsche, Worked
With Neil Young And Rolling Stones, Dies At 63
Jack Nitzsche, whose career in
pop music ranged from the classic
Although not widely known to the general public,
productions of Phil Spector, to albums
Young, to the soundtracks
of such films as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's
Nest, died Friday (Aug. 25, 2000)
of cardiac arrest caused by a bronchial
infection in Hollywood, Calif. He was 63.
Nitzsche was a musical renaissance man who
played a role in the careers of some of the most important
acts in rock and roll, including the Ronettes, the Righteous
Brothers, Buffalo Springfield, Neil
Young, the Rolling Stones,
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, John Hiatt, the Neville
Brothers, Ry Cooder, and many others. In addition to his pop
music work, Nitzsche composed and arranged the scores to
such motion pictures as Starman, Cruising, Blue Collar, and
The Hot Spot -- the last of which featured an unusual
ensemble that included Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker, and Taj
Bernard Alfred Nitzsche, known as Jack, was born in Chicago
on April 22, 1937, but was raised on a Michigan farm near
the town of Newaygo. A teenaged Nitzsche moved to Los
Angeles and attended music school with the goal of
becoming a jazz saxophonist, but abandoned that career
course. He later found his first professional work as a copyist
at Specialty Records, hired by the label's A&R rep, Sonny
Bono. (Nitzsche and Bono co-wrote the Searchers' first hit,
"Needles and Pins," which was later revived by the
Ramones.) Within a few years, Nitzsche started working with
pop impresario Phil Spector on records that included the
Crystals' "He's a Rebel" and "Then He Kissed Me," the
Ronettes' "Be My Baby," and Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep,
Nitzsche was also a recording artist in his own right,
debuting in 1963 with "The Lonely Surfer" on Reprise
Records, the title track of which would crack the top 40 that
year. Nitzsche began his association with the Rolling Stones
in 1964, playing piano on such classic tracks as "Play With
Fire" and "Paint It Black," and would later write the
memorable choir arrangement for "You Can't Always Get
What You Want." Nitzsche co-produced Buffalo Springfield's
pivotal Buffalo Springfield Again album, and, after the
breakup of the band, continued to work with Neil Young on
projects from his debut solo album, through Harvest and
After the Gold Rush, to such latter-day releases as Life and
Harvest Moon. Ultimately, Nitzsche's production credits
included such major artists as Graham Parker, Jackie
DeShannon, Mink DeVille, Lou Christie, and many others.
Nitzsche also put his composing and arranging skills to use in
the area of movie soundtracks, beginning with the 1964 rock
and roll film The T.A.M.I. Show and including Nicholas Roeg's
Among his more than 30 motion picture
soundtracks are Stand By Me, The Jewel of the Nile, and The
Crossing Guard. In 1982, he won the Academy Award for
Best Song, "Up Where We Belong" from An Officer and a
Gentleman, shared with his wife, singer-songwriter Buffy
Sainte-Marie, and Will Jennings.
Jack Nitzsche, who had also been married to Gracia Ann
Nitzsche, is survived by his son, Jack Nitzsche Jr. Funeral
services will be held Wednesday (Aug. 30).
by Drew Wheeler
rock composer Jack Nitzsche dies
By Dean Goodman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Rock composer Jack Nitzsche, who
worked with the Rolling Stones and Neil
Young and won an
Academy Award for co-writing the theme song to "An Officer and
a Gentleman," has died, his publicist said Sunday.
Nitzsche died on Friday at Queen of Angels hospital in Hollywood
following cardiac arrest brought on by a recurring bronchial
infection. He was 63, according to a statement issued by Susan
Clary, a publicist and friend of Nitzsche's.
Nitzsche's handiwork graces many of the biggest songs and albums
of the rock era. He arranged many of the songs produced by Phil
Spector, including the Crystals' "She's a Rebel" and Ike and Tina
Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High."
With an ambitious young talent scout named Sonny Bono, who had
given Nitzsche his first job in the music industry, he co-wrote the
Searchers' 1964 hit song "Needles and Pins."
Nitzsche worked with the Rolling Stones during the 1960s, playing
keyboards on such tracks as "Let's Spend the Night Together,"
"Play With Fire" and "Paint It, Black."
He also worked as a session man and producer for Neil Young over
several decades, beginning with the 1967 Buffalo Springfield song
"Expecting to Fly." He was a member of the Stray Gators, the
backing band on Young's biggest selling album, "Harvest."
His film music work included the 1970 Mick Jagger movie
"The Exorcist," "Starman," "One Flew Over a
Cuckoo's Nest," "An Officer and a Gentleman," and the recent
Sean Penn movies "The Indian Runner" and "The Crossing Guard."
He received an Academy Award nomination in 1976 for his original
score to "Cuckoo's Nest." In 1983, he shared the best song Oscar
with Buffy Sainte-Marie and Will Jennings for "Up Where We
Belong," the theme to "An Officer and a Gentleman." His original
score for "Officer" was also Oscar-nominated.
Nitzsche's career was frequently marked by bouts with drugs and
scrapes with the law, and a statement said he once was featured
on the reality TV show "Cops."
But his health was reportedly better than ever in recent years. In
June, he visited Australia to take part in a film conference.
He is survived by son Jack Jr., born to his first wife Gracia Ann
May. Nitzsche was also married to Sainte-Marie at one point. The
funeral is scheduled for Wednesday in Los Angeles. Further details
were not immediately available.
Nitzsche, Musician and Oscar-Winning Songwriter, Dies at 63
By JON PARELES
Jack Nitzsche, an Oscar-winning songwriter, keyboardist and
arranger who worked with musicians like Phil Spector, the Rolling
Stones, Neil Young and Miles Davis, died on Friday in Hollywood. He
was 63 and lived in Los Angeles.
The cause of death was cardiac arrest brought on by a recurring
bronchial infection, said his son, Jack Nitzsche Jr.
Mr. Nitzsche made a career as a prized collaborator, drawing on idioms
as old as the blues and as new as electronic music. He wrote songs with
Buffy Sainte-Marie, who was his wife during the 1980's ("Up Where We
Belong," which won an Academy Award as Best Song, from "An Officer
and a Gentleman"), and with Sonny Bono ("Needles and Pins," a 1964
hit for the Searchers). He played piano with Neil Young and the Rolling
Stones; he arranged full orchestras or skeletal, atmospheric handfuls of
instruments as film soundtracks or as accompaniments for rock songs.
Bernard Alfred Nitzsche was born in Chicago in 1937, and grew up on a
farm near Newaygo, Mich.
He hoped to become a jazz saxophonist and moved to Los Angeles in
1955, but dropped out of music school.
Mr. Bono, who was an artists-and-repertory executive at Specialty
Records, hired him as a copyist.
Mr. Nitzsche then worked for Capitol Records, where he met the singer
Gracia Ann May, who became his first wife.
Mr. Nitzsche became Phil Spector's arranger in 1962, creating the
thunderous orchestrations of the Wall of Sound for hits that included the
Crystals' "He's a Rebel," "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Then He Kissed Me";
the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and "Baby I Love You"; and Ike and Tina
Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High."
During the 1960's he was also a session keyboardist and arranger for the
Rolling Stones, working on their albums from 1964 to 1974, including
"Let It Bleed" and "Sticky Fingers."
He began a long association with Neil Young when he orchestrated
"Expecting to Fly" for the Buffalo Springfield in 1967. He played piano
on Mr. Young's albums "Tonight's the Night" and "Time Fades Away"
and wrote arrangements for Mr. Young's 1972 album, "Harvest," and his
1992 album, "Harvest Moon." He also worked with Randy Newman,
Marianne Faithfull, the Neville Brothers, Jackie DeShannon and the
Monkees, among many others.
Under his own name he recorded an instrumental hit, "The Lonely
Surfer," in 1963, and released an album of orchestral pieces, "St. Giles
Cripplegate," in 1973. In the late 1970's Mr. Nitzsche turned to new
wave rock, producing Graham Parker's "Squeezing Out Sparks" and
albums by Mink DeVille. Most recently, he produced recordings by the
Louisiana rocker C. C. Adcock, which remain unreleased.
But Mr. Nitzsche was most widely recognized for his film scores. His
1975 score for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" was nominated for
an Academy Award, as was his score for "An Officer and a Gentleman"
in 1982, the year "Up Where We Belong" won as best song.
His first film music was for the 1964 rock and soul documentary, "The
T.A.M.I. Show," and he went on to write scores for more than 30 films,
including "Performance" (1970), "Greaser's Palace" (1972), "The
Exorcist" (1972), "Heart Beat" (1980), "Cutter's Way" (1981), "Personal
Best" (1982), "Starman" (1984), "The Razor's Edge (1984), "The Jewel
of the Nile" (1985), "9 1/2 Weeks" (1986), "Stand by Me" (1986),
"Revenge" (1990) and "The Crossing Guard" (1995). His score for "The
Hot Spot," a 1990 film by Dennis Hopper, brought together John Lee
Hooker, Taj Mahal and Miles Davis.
Mr. Nitzsche had a persistent drug problem and was known, at times, for
volatile behavior. In 1979 he was sentenced to three years' probation for
breaking and entering following a domestic dispute with his girlfriend
the time, the actress Carrie Snodgress. In the late 1990's, The Los
Angeles Times reported, his arrest was shown on the television series
"Cops" after he waved a gun at someone who had stolen his hat.
He is survived by his son.