Most people would say Frank Sinatra or the Beatles created the soundtrack of the 1960s.
However, you can make an excellent case for Enrico Nicola Mancini, better known as Henry Mancini – who will be celebrated in Saturday’s Spokane Symphony SuperPops concert, “Mancini Madness.”
Check out the evidence:
• Mancini wrote the impossibly catchy theme for the TV show “Peter Gunn.” It went to No. 1 on the album charts in 1959 and won the Album of the Year Grammy. Its “walking bass” line endures today as a must-play for fledgling guitar players.
• Mancini’s “Moon River” won the 1961 Oscar for Best Song and was “surely one of the best-loved songs of the decade,” according to the “Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music.”
• “Dear Heart,” possibly the second-most-loved song of the decade, was a hit for two singers in the same month in 1964, Andy Williams and Jack Jones.
• Mancini created many other hits, including the jaunty “Baby Elephant Walk” and “Mr. Lucky.”
• His movie scores in the mid-1960s became huge album hits: “Breakfast at Tiffany’s, “The Days of Wine and Roses” and “Charade,” to name just a few.
• And even those hits were dwarfed by his biggest movie score of all, “The Pink Panther.” The “Pink Panther” theme remains instantly recognizable to Americans of all ages, 45 years later.
So, Mancini was The Man in mainstream American music in the 1960s. And he remained a top movie composer and pops concert attraction until his death, from cancer, in 1994.
Most of the above Mancini hits will be performed in the first half of Saturday’s program. The second half will feature a number of Mancini-influenced pieces, including Bill Conti’s theme from “Rocky” and tunes from Kander and Ebb’s “Chicago,” as well as movie music from “The Wizard of Oz,” “Gone With the Wind” and the Looney Tunes cartoons.
The guest conductor for this concert will be Carl Topilow, who is the conductor of the Cleveland Pops and a well-known national figure in the pops concert world. He is also the director of the orchestral program at the Cleveland Institute of Music.