French com­poser won Os­car for his

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - Obituaries -

FRENCH com­poser Fran­cis Lai, who won an Os­car for his movie score in Love Story, has died aged 86.

Lai, whose death was an­nounced by France’s Cul­ture Min­istry, quickly rose through the ranks at the start of his ca­reer, com­pos­ing songs for Edith Piaf and Yves Mon­tand.

He turned his at­ten­tion to the sil­ver screen in the 1960s af­ter meet­ing direc­tor Claude Lelouch, and wrote the ti­tle track mu­sic for 1966’s Os­car­win­ning A Man And A Woman.

Lai’s suc­cess cul­mi­nated with his 1970 Academy Award for the score of Love Story.

Its main song, Where Do I Be­gin?, is near-uni­ver­sally known thanks to pop­u­lar ren­di­tions by Andy Wil­liams and Shirley Bassey.

The mayor of Nice, Lai’s birth­place, said he hoped to name “an em­blem­atic place of our city” af­ter Lai.

The mag­a­zine Va­ri­ety wrote that Lai’s pi­ano melody for Love Story was his big­gest hit, earn­ing him both an Os­car and a Golden Globe. The sound­track record­ing filled the air­waves in early 1971, reach­ing num­ber 37 as a sin­gle and num­ber two as a sound­track al­bum.

The score al­most didn’t hap­pen. Lai ini­tially turned down the as­sign­ment, he told the Los An­ge­les Times in 2001.

But French ac­tor Alain Delon, who had seen a cut of the film, called Lai and con­vinced him to de­lay his sum­mer va­ca­tion.

Va­ri­ety said Delon and pro­ducer Robert Evans flew to Paris with a print, screened it for him and, said Lai, “I came out of the screen­ing in­cred­i­bly moved. I went straight home, sat at my key­board and wrote that theme that very night.”

Lai had al­ready achieved fame with his ro­man­tic theme for A Man and a Woman, French direc­tor Claude Lelouch’s art-house hit of 1966. The com­bi­na­tion of Lai’s ac­cor­dion and the word­less “da-bada-ba-da, da-ba-da-ba-da” vo­cals of a male-fe­male duo struck a chord with record-buy­ers, pro­pel­ling the sound­track al­bum to no. 10 on the Amer­i­can charts.

Direc­tor Lelouch be­came Lai’s great­est cham­pion, re­ported Va­ri­ety, col­lab­o­rat­ing with the com­poser on nearly 40 projects — many of them ro­man­tic in na­ture.

He worked for other English and French direc­tors as well, scor­ing I’ll Never For­get What’sis­name for Michael Win­ner (1967), May­er­ling for Ter­ence Young (1968), Three into Two Won’t Go for Peter Hall (1969), Rider on the Rain for Rene Cle­ment (1970), In­ter­na­tional Vel­vet for Bryan Forbes (1978) and Les cles du Par­adis for Philippe de Broca (1991).

His al­bums for Em­manuelle 2 (1975) and Bili­tis (1977) were hits among Eu­ro­pean record-buy­ers.

In all, he scored more than 100 films.

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