April 15th 1948 – November 18th 2003
You will be missed.
Michael Kamen was one of the world’s most prolific composers, having worked in all aspects of media. In his life he has achieved much, having won three Grammys, two Golden Globes, two Ivor Novello awards, two Oscar nominations an Annie, an Emmy and countless millions of fans who respected him and admired his work.
Kamen was born on April 15th 1948 in New York City. He studied at The New York High School of Music & Art, having shown interest in music from around the age of 10 after listening to the soundtracks from films such as The Vikings and The Wizard of Oz. He was already deeply involved in the music of Brahms and Leonard Bernstein who was performing ‘Young Peoples Concerts’ at the time.
“At school I played the Clarinet and I learned a new step of the scale every week, I improvised fingers on the instrument because I had not been taught. When I auditioned for the music teachers at Junior High School I was very proud of my playing, but was a bit dismayed when the teachers said, ‘Well, we have a choice; we can either break your fingers and start all over again or we can start a new instrument.’ When they suggested the oboe, I leapt at the chance.”
He later went on to study the oboe at Juilliard’s School for Music Dance and Drama in New York, and while he was there, Kamen helped set up a rock-classical fusion band called the New York Rock And Roll Ensemble. Enigmatic composer, pianist, conductor and teacher Leonard Bernstein featured this band in one of his many Young People’s Concerts, the first with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra on the 8th of February 1968. Bernstein himself introduced Kamen to symphonic arranging and composing and ignited a passion that would burn for over 30 years.
Kamen started composing ballets in the early 1970s, and has written ten of them. Kamen contributed some music to the off-beat rock Western movie Zachariah in 1971 and later that decade, he wrote the complete scores for The Next Man in 1976, Between The Lines, Rodin mis en vie (1976), Stunts (1977) and Boardwalk (1979). He also worked with Pink Floyd as an arranger for their album The Wall in 1979, expanding his experience from Symphonic arranging to Rock and Pop.
The 1980s saw him work with illustrious names in Jazz, Rock and Pop, notably Eric Clapton, Herbie Hancock and George Harrison. Subsequently, Kamen scored some of the period’s most entertaining and diverting movies, which included Venom, The Dead Zone, Brazil, Mona Lisa, Rita Sue And Bob, Too, Die Hard, Crusoe, For Queen And Country, The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen and of course, his rousing score for 1989 Bond film Licence To Kill. A piece of work that highly interests all Bond music fans is his Bond Theme collaboration with Vic Flick (original Bond Theme guitarist for John Barry) and Eric Clapton that to this day has never been heard by the fans.
Michael Kamen with Metallica
In the early 90s Kamen markedly composed the music for Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (for which he was awarded two Grammys), The Krays and Let Him Have It– the latter written by current Bond scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Recent years have seen Kamen continue composing for Hollywood films, as well as arranging some of Bob Dylan’s songs for the orchestra in a 1994 concert to benefit UNESCO and 1996 saw him compose music for the closing of the Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
In 1999 Kamen famously worked alongside Metallica, combining his orchestral finesse with their rock sound for the humorously titled S & M concert. The recording with the San Francisco symphony orchestra went multi-platinum, serving as an underlining to Kamen’s already illustrious career. January 2000 saw the release of his Millenium Symphony, which drew inspiration from myriad cultures and peoples around the world, something he sought to portray in every facet of his work.
Michael Kamen at work
Kamen also founded the Mr Holland’s Opus Foundation—after the Oscar Nominated film of the same name starring Richard Dreyfuss—which dedicates itself to giving musical instruments to under-privileged students who want to learn the craft.
“My eternal debt is to Bach and his meaningful music, which always inspires me to tears.”
Mr Kamen’s mark on both the world of music and the world of Bond is indelible and permanent, this biography only serves to highlight his most prominent achievements. He had been suffering from multiple sclerosis for six years before announcing it this year, he died of a heart attack yesterday at only 55 years of age, and he leaves behind a wife and two daughters.
The staff of CommanderBond.net offer their condolences to Mr Kamen’s family at this difficult time.