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Michael Kamen, 1948-2003

November 18, 2003 Leave a comment Go to comments

Michael KamenComposer Michael Kamen died on November 18, 2003 in London, England, after suffering a heart attack. He was 55.

Michael Arnold Kamen was born in New York in April 1948, where he attended The High School of Music and Art and the Juilliard School, where he specialized in composition and oboe performance. After being a part of the New York Rock & Roll Ensemble with fellow composer Mark Snow as a youth, Kamen moved to England in the 1970s and found work as ballet composer and as an arranger for pop and rock bands, notably for artists such as Kate Bush, David Bowie and Pink Floyd, for whom he arranged the album The Wall in 1979.

Having already dabbled in film music during the late 1970s, Kamen began embracing cinema fully in the early 1980s, writing the music for acclaimed films such as The Dead Zone and Brazil, and the TV mini-series Edge of Darkness, before cracking the Hollywood big-time with a trio of massively successful action scores between 1986 and 1989 – Highlander, Lethal Weapon and Die Hard.

Over the next decade Kamen was an in-demand composer of predominantly action films, splitting his time equally between the British and American film industries. He scored the James Bond film Licence to Kill in 1989, two more Die Hard sequels, three Lethal Weapon sequels, and critical and box office successes such as The Three Musketeers, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Jack, 101 Dalmatians, X-Men, as well as the hit TV mini-series Band of Brothers. Not only that, Kamen topped the music charts for weeks on end with Bryan Adams and co-songwriter Rober John “Mutt” Lange with the title song “Everything I Do, I Do For You” from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in 1991. He received his first Academy Award nomination for that song, received a second Oscar nomination for the song “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman” from Don Juan De Marco in 1994, and also picked up four Golden Globe nominations, four Grammy nominations and an Emmy nomination.

In addition to his film music, Kamen also regularly wrote classical and concert pieces, including a concerto for saxophonist David Sanborn in 1991, a concerto for electric guitar virtuoso Tomoyasu Hotei in 1999, a symphony with rock band Metallica entitled “S&M” in 1999, and a symphony to celebrate the turn of the millennium, called “The New Moon in the Old Moon’s Arms”, which premiered in New York in the year 2000, conducted by Leonard Slatkin.

Kamen was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2002, before succumbing to a heart attack. His final two film scores, First Daughter and Back to Gaya, were incomplete at the time of his death, but will be finished by his colleagues Blake Neely and Ilan Eshkeri, and released posthumously. He leaves a wife, Sandra, and two daughters, Sasha and Zoe.

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