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Bernard Alfred Nitzsche
Jack Nitzsche
August 25, 2000
Age 63 
Cardiac Arrest 
photo by Brian Ashley White 
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Editor's Pick:  One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (dvd)
 
 
 
 

OBITUARY 
 Producer-Composer Jack Nitzsche, Worked
  With Neil Young And Rolling Stones, Dies At 63
      Jack Nitzsche, whose career in pop music ranged from the classic  
    productions of Phil Spector, to albums by Neil 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.  
     
                     Although not widely known to the general public,   
                     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 
                     Mahal.  

                     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, 
                     Mountain High."  

                     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 
                     Performance. 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).  

                                                  -- Story by Drew Wheeler  
 

    
  Oscar-winning 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 
                               "Performance," "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.  

                               Reuters/Variety 

 
NY TIMES
        
       Jack 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 at
                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. 

 
       
 

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All-Music Guide
 
     Though largely unknown to the general public, Jack Nitzsche was a rock & roll institution; during a 
     career distinguished by remarkable longevity and taste, he lent his skills as a composer, arranger and 
     producer to the work of giants including the Rolling Stones, Neil Young and Phil Spector, in the process 
     leaving his signature on some of the greatest recordings in pop music history. Born in Chicago on April 
     22, 1937, his career began in the late 1950s when he fell in with a group of aspiring L.A.-area 
     entrepreneurs including Lee Hazlewood and Lou Adler; after teaming with Sonny Bono, then A&R 
     chief at the Specialty label, Nitzsche penned the perennial "Needles and Pins," later a smash for the 
     Searchers. His reputation was cemented by his work as an arranger under the tutelage of the 
     legendary producer Spector, becoming a key component of the famed Wall of Sound on classic 
     releases from the Crystals, the Ronettes and the Righteous Brothers. In 1963, Nitzsche finally garnered 
     some chart notoriety of his own as well, scoring a hit with the single "The Lonely Surfer," the title track 
     to his debut LP. 

     Beginning in 1964, Nitzsche also worked as an arranger for the Stones, their collaboration yielding such 
     hits as "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "The Last Time" and "Get Off of My Cloud." By 1966 he 
     returned to California, contributing strings to Tim Buckley's debut LP before producing material for 
     P.J. Proby, Jackie DeShannon and Buffalo Springfield. His work with the Springfield resulted in a 
     friendship with the group's guitarist Neil Young, and when Young later mounted a solo career, he 
     enlisted Nitszche not only as a producer but also as a member of his touring band Crazy Horse. His 
     work with Young and the Rolling Stones remained Nitzsche's primary focus in the years to come, 
     although he also pursued a career as a film composer, an outlet he'd begun exploring with his score to 
     the 1970 feature Performance. His work on pictures -- including The Exorcist and One Flew Over 
     the Cuckoo's Nest -- was the subject of great acclaim, and he remained a frequent soundtrack 
     presence over the course of the decades to follow, most notably on films including An Officer and a Gentleman and Stand by Me. -- Jason Ankeny

 
 
  
 
 

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