March 07, 2012

In Memoriam: Mike Melvoin, 1937 - 2012

Mike Melvoin

ASCAP member Mike Melvoin, a prolific composer/arranger, keyboardist and former president of the Recording Academy, has died. He was 74.

Melvoin was best known as a musician. He was a first-call session pianist, playing on records by Frank Sinatra, John Lennon, The Jackson 5, Tom Waits, Gabor Szabo and dozens more. He played on The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” backed up Barbra Streisand on her classic recording of Paul Williams’s “Evergreen,” and was invited by Quincy Jones to play on “We Are the World.”

While Melvoin’s versatile playing fit beautifully with music of nearly every genre, he held the jazz world especially close to his heart, and continued recording and playing live with various combos until the end of his life. His resume includes work with a staggering variety of jazz legends, from Stan Getz and Nancy Wilson to Cal Tjader and Oliver Nelson. In 2010, the LA Jazz Society honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award for his five decades of dedication to the city’s jazz scene.

In addition to his recording work, Melvoin was also a prolific composer and arranger for film and television. He wrote the music for feature films The Good Shepherd and Posse and contributed scores for multiple episodes of Fame, MacGyver and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, among others. Saxophonist Phil Woods, a contributor to Melvoin’s It’s Always You album, also spoke fondly of his songwriting. "They're not just your regular Tin Pan Alley," Woods told the LA Times. "It's the American song form raised a notch. Mike is like fine wine."

Melvoin was the first active musician to serve as the national president of the Recording Academy. Even after his tenure, he remained a passionate advocate for the rights and recognition of his fellow studio professionals.

Michael Melvoin died of cancer in Burbank, CA on February 22nd, 2012. He is survived by his daughters, ASCAP members Wendy and Susannah (Wendy Melvoin is one half of the songwriting/composing duo Wendy & Lisa), four grandchildren, a brother, and his companion, actress Theresa Russell.

Find out more about Michael Melvoin at his website: