French composer won Oscar for his
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.