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Todd Decker

[Gumm, Frances Ethel]

(b Grand Rapids, MN, 10 June 1922; d London, England, 22 June 1969) Singer and actress, mother of Liza Minnelli

She began her career at age three in a family vaudeville act. As a child, she was billed as “the little girl with the great big voice.” The musical short Every Sunday initiated Garland’s long-term connection with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer when she was 13. After taking a featured role as Sophie Tucker’s daughter in Broadway Melody of 1938, Garland became a major musical film star following the release of The Wizard of Oz (1939) and a series of teen-oriented musicals with Mickey Rooney. Her first adult role, in For me and my Gal (1942), introduced Gene Kelly to Hollywood. Under the direction of Vincente Minnelli, who became her second husband, Garland made a final appearance as a teenager in Meet me in St. Louis (1944...

Article

Ivana Vuksanović

[Pušić, Antonije]

(b Herceg Novi, June 14, 1963). Serbian musician, conceptual media artist, and performer, of Montenegrin birth. His artistic concept shows typically postmodern features: a synthesis of different musical styles (jazz, rock, hip hop, drum and bass, funk), ludic intertextual references (to theatre, film, music, literature), witty lyrics (about Balkan mentality, demagogy, local glamour and glitter, poltroonery, etc.), a camp aesthetic, and the extravagance of the public image. These all serve as a subversive critique of today’s media culture. Rambo’s professional biography consists of 20 albums, a huge number of concerts, theatre and film music, and bizarre public projects/performances including Pasija za 28 usisivača (‘Passion for 28 Vacuum Cleaners’), the redecoration of the men’s room at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, and appearing on a TV programme with a cardboard box on his head. He wrote music for theatrical plays including Đetić u parlament (‘Montenegrin Boy in Parliament’), ...

Article

Karel Steinmetz and Geoffrey Chew

(b Plzeň [Pilsen], July 14, 1939; d Prague, Oct 1, 2019). Czech pop singer, actor, and painter. The best-known and most successful Czech pop singer of the 20th and 21st centuries. In his youth Gott aspired to become a painter, and after completing his schooling in Plzeň, he applied to study art in Prague. After failing to be admitted, he trained as an electrician, and during his training devoted himself also to singing. He began by studying as an opera singer (lyric tenor) with Konstantin Karenin, a pupil of Chaliapin, at first at the Prague Conservatoire and later privately. In 1962 he was engaged at the Semafor Theatre in Prague of Jiří Suchý and Jiří Šlitr, where he achieved great success singing the songs of Suchý and Šlitr; in 1963 he won the Zlatý slavík (‘Golden Nightingale’) poll for the first time, with the hit Oči má sněhem zaváté...

Article

Elizabeth Craft

(b New York, Jan 16, 1980). American composer, lyricist, playwright, performer, and producer. Miranda was raised in northern Manhattan and attended the Hunter College public selective-admission elementary and high schools. His parents are from Puerto Rico; growing up, he spent time there each summer.

Miranda studied theatre at Wesleyan College (BA 2002), where he wrote an early version of his first hit musical In the Heights. After graduating, he teamed up with director Thomas Kail, a fellow Wesleyan alumnus, and the show received several readings and an off-Broadway production before its première on Broadway in 2008. Miranda wrote the music and lyrics, working with bookwriter Quiara Alegría Hudes, and he starred in the original cast. Running for over 1000 performances and garnering awards including four Tonys, notably for Best Musical and Best Original Score, the show established Miranda as a major presence on Broadway. Many of the show’s creative team and cast members became his regular collaborators....

Article

David Brackett

[Penniman, Richard Wayne]

(b Macon, GA, Dec 5, 1932; d Tullahoma, TN, May 9, 2020). Rhythm and blues singer, songwriter, and pianist. His early influences were gospel music, Louis Jordan, and other jump blues and urban blues artists of the late 1940s. After making several unsuccessful recordings in the early 1950s, he recorded “Tutti Frutti” in September 1955, which was a success on both the rhythm and blues and the pop charts. Although part of the first wave of rock and roll hits, it was far more aggressive and retained more aspects of African American vernacular music-making than other early recordings in this style.

“Tutti Frutti” set the tone for the Little Richard hits that followed between 1956 and 1958, including “Long Tall Sally,” “Rip it up,” “Lucille,” “Keep a knockin’,” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly”. Over a fast boogie-shuffle rhythm with many stop-time breaks, he sings playful double-entendres near the top of his range in a searing timbre interspersed with trademark falsetto whoops. His piano playing derives from the boogie-woogie style, emphasizes the upbeat, and features a great many glissandos. In performance Little Richard would frequently leave the piano to dance exuberantly, occasionally on top of the instrument itself. In addition to his manic presence as singer, pianist, and dancer, his visual appearance added to the sense of his outrageousness: with his large pompadour, liberal use of makeup, and gaudy clothing, he raised the specter of cross-dressing and ambiguous sexuality at a time when such issues were strictly taboo. However, it is possible that he was accepted by the white public at the time because his performance style was perceived as an updated form of minstrelsy....

Article

Christopher Palmer and Sergio Miceli

(Alexandrovich)

(b St Petersburg, Russia, 16/29 Oct 1901; d Rome, Italy, 7 June 1983). Italian composer and conductor of Russian origin. A grandson of the composer Nikolay Sokolov and a brother of the cellist Massimo Amfitheatrof, he studied with Vītols in St. Petersburg and Křička in Prague, but the greater part of his training was undertaken in Rome, where he studied composition with Respighi at the Conservatorio di S Cecilia (diploma 1924) and the organ at the Pontifical Academy of Sacred Music. He was engaged as a pianist, organist, and chorus assistant at the Augusteo (1924–9), also conducting the orchestra under Molinari's supervision. Thereafter he was artistic director of the Genoa and Trieste radio stations and conductor and manager for Italian radio in Turin; he also conducted elsewhere in Europe. In 1937 he went to the United States as associate conductor of the Minneapolis SO, and in ...

Article

Martin Marks

(b New York, NY, 19 April 1888; d Ukiah, CA, 13 Feb 1959). Composer and conductor. After private music study in Berlin, he conducted for Oscar Hammerstein's Manhattan Opera Company, which closed in 1910, and then for productions on Broadway. By 1921 he had become an assistant conductor at the Capitol Theater, where silent films were presented with full orchestral accompaniment; in 1923, in partnership with David Mendoza, he replaced Erno Rapée as principal conductor. In addition to conducting, he composed incidental film music for the Capitol as needed, including 57 pieces published in the Capitol Photoplay Series (New York, 1923–7). From 1925 to 1929 he collaborated with Mendoza in New York on compilation scores for at least 20 MGM films, beginning with The Big Parade. Their collaboration continued with the music for Don Juan (1926), the first feature film score to be presented using the Vitaphone process, which mechanically synchronized the playback of music recorded on wax discs with the projection of the film. In ...

Article

George J. Ferencz

(b Hartford, CT, 3 Aug 1906; d Los Angeles, CA, 26 Sept 1972). Conductor, composer, arranger, and film producer. He attended Loyola College, later studying with Joseph Schillinger and Ernst Toch. Beginning in 1927, he conducted Broadway musicals by several of its leading songwriters, including Schwartz (Flying Colors, 1932), Romberg (May Wine, 1935), Arlen (Hooray for What?, 1937), Porter (Leave it to Me, 1938), Kern (Very Warm for May, 1939), and Berlin (Louisiana Purchase, 1940). He also appeared frequently as a network radio conductor during the 1930s. He joined Paramount in 1941 and worked on several dozen films, variously as composer, arranger, conductor, or musical director, including Holiday Inn (1942), Lady in the Dark (1944), and Blue Skies (1946). He also served as producer for the lavish Paramount musicals White Christmas...

Article

David Ades

(Joseph)

(b Toronto, ON, 24 July 1917; d Guernsey, 23 April 2005). Canadian arranger, composer, and conductor. He began his career as a trumpet player in dance bands and later worked for Percy Faith's CBC Orchestra. By 1942 he had composed two symphonies, and in 1944 he came to Britain as conductor of the Canadian Band of the Allied Expeditionary Force, alongside Glenn Miller and George Melachrino fronting the US and British bands. He took his army discharge in Britain, where Decca contracted him to work with their leading singers such as Vera Lynn and Gracie Fields; the BBC granted him a radio series with his own orchestra. He began composing for the cinema, and early successes out of some 40 scores included Spring in Park Lane, Maytime in Mayfair, and Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. The emergence of LPs provided orchestra leaders such as Farnon the opportunity to develop their arranging and composing talents more fully, and his Decca albums from the 1950s have become highly prized by admirers, especially fellow musicians in the United States. Many have acknowledged his influence, including John Williams, Henry Mancini, Quincy Jones, and Johnny Mandel. Farnon's light orchestral cameos are among the finest to have been written since World War II, notably ...

Article

Fred Steiner

(b Salt Lake City, UT, 26 March 1907; d Long Beach, CA, 10 Dec 1969). Composer and conductor. He studied music at the University of Utah and took private piano and organ lessons with the conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, J. Spencer Cornwall. After working for radio stations in his native city, he moved to California (1928), where he arranged music and conducted for radio stations in Los Angeles and San Francisco. From 1932 to 1941 he worked for Walt Disney, writing for the Silly Symphony series and many other short films. He also composed for Disney's first two animated feature films: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio; for the latter he won Academy Awards for best original score and best song (“When you Wish upon a Star”). After leaving Disney he worked at various studios (mainly RKO and 20th Century-Fox), composing, conducting, and arranging for more than 120 feature films and several television programs. Although sometimes typecast as a scorer of comedies, Harline was a skillful, imaginative, and often original craftsman, whose best work reveals a genuine dramatic flair. Two of his Disney scores, ...