Wednesday, October 15, 2008

RIP Neil Hefti

Hefti was a composer/arranger who worked with Frank Sinatra, Coleman Hawkins, and Count Basie (among others) back in the day, but it was his blessing and his curse to be remembered best for the themes to "Batman" TV show and the "Odd Couple" movie and TV show.

Hefti retired to live off of his royalty income over 30 years ago, although his work continues to appear--largely through quotes and inside jokes--in later shows such as "Friends," "The Simpsons," and "Futurama."

About one of his best-known compositions:
He painstakingly composed the theme music for the "Batman" TV series shortly before the show's premiere in January 1966. After discarding many ideas, Mr. Hefti wrote the theme as a series of repeated two-note bursts, built on a framework of the 12-bar blues.

"Sure, you may say I could have written the theme itself in two minutes -- but it took weeks to work out the arrangement, which is inseparable from the melody," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1966. "It often takes time to write something that sounds like you just turned on a faucet and it flowed out."

Mr. Hefti also inserted a single lyric -- a repeated exclamatory "Batman!" -- which prompted him to joke that his composer's credit should read, "Word and Music by Neal Hefti."

For the record, Hefti, who was 85 and in poor health for some time, did not die of saccharine overdose. Nor did one of his TV jingles get loose and bore its way into his own brain like an earwig. Those are just mean rumors.

Now you'll be humming that for the rest of the day.

(Hat-tip to Lance Mannion.)

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