Oscar-nominated and Grammy-winning composer, conductor, arranger, musician and all-round nice guy Michael Kamen sadly passed away, at the age of 55, on 18th November 2003 in a hospital close to his home in London. He had been suffering from multiple sclerosis for some years, being diagnosed with the disease (which affects the central nervous system causing various disabilities) in 1996.
A long-term collaborator with Pink Floyd and Roger Waters, he did the orchestral arrangements on The Wall, The Final Cut and The Division Bell albums. He also did the orchestration on Roger Waters’ Pros and Cons and Amused to Death albums and David Gilmour’s About Face album, and most recently he played piano and cor Anglais on Gilmour’s semi-acoustic live shows (a performance of which was released as the “David Gilmour In Concert” DVD).
Kamen was born in New York, and grew up in Queens, the son of liberal activists. He learnt to play the piano at the tender age of 2, and later turned his hand to the guitar, oboe and clarinet. In the late 60s, he helped found the New York Rock’n’Roll Ensemble. In the 70s, he scored ballets, served as musical director for David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs tour and began writing scores for film. Although he began in Hollywood working on films like “Polyester” and “Brazil,” he turned more mainstream in the 80s, working on the “Lethal Weapon” series, the “Die Hard” movies, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” and “X-Men,” amongst others.
In 1999, Michael conducted the San Francisco Orchestra as it backed hard rock act Metallica on its live “S&M” (Symphony & Metallica) project. Recorded across two concerts that reworked the band’s canon for symphonic arrangement, the resulting album reached number 2 and sold over 2.6 million copies in the US alone.
His work on the soundtrack to “Mr Holland’s Opus”, inspired Michael to set up the Mr Holland’s Opus Foundation in 1997, to raise money to make musical instruments available to children.
Michael Kamen is survived by his wife, two daughters, three brothers and his father.