NEW YORK – Johnny Mandel, the Oscar- and Grammy-winning composer, arranger and musician who worked on albums by Frank Sinatra, Natalie Cole and many others and whose songwriting credits included “The Shadow of Your Smile” and the theme from the film and TV show “M(asterisk)A(asterisk)S(asterisk)H,” has died. He was 94.
Mandel died Monday of a cardiac ailment at his home in Ojai, California, according to Lauren Iossa, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of ASCAP. Mandel served on the ASCAP board of directors from 1989-2011.
“Giant. Genius. Gentleman. There are many ways to describe the legendary composer Johnny Mandel. His incredible music spanned decades, mediums, oceans and firmly established him in the American Songbook canon," ASCAP Chairman and President Paul Williams said in tribute.
Mandel was among the last of the great songwriters to emerge in the pre-rock ‘n’ roll era, his career dating back to the 1940s, and he enjoyed a long and diverse career. He played trombone and trumpet with such big band and jazz artists as Jimmy Dorsey and Count Basie and spent two years in the 1950s arranging music for Sid Caesar’s landmark TV sketch program “Your Show of Shows.” He collaborated on songs with Johnny Mercer, Paul Williams and the husband and wife team Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Artists recording his material ranged from Marvin Gaye to Stan Getz to Barbra Streisand.
He even worked on the soundtrack for “Caddyshack.”
“I don’t have a method or a style, and I never wanted one,” Mandel said during a 2010 interview with The National Endowment for the Arts, which the following year gave him a Jazz Masters award for lifetime achievement. “Some guys really try to have a style. I just work with what’s there and try to do the best with what’s there.”
As an arranger, Mandel worked with some of the greatest singers of his time. When Sinatra launched his own label, Reprise Records, in 1960 he chose Mandel to arrange his first album there, the exuberant “Ring-a-Ding-Ding!” In the early 1990s, Cole called upon him for her Grammy-winning smash “Unforgettable,” which featured duets with tapes of her late father (and Sinatra’s friend), Nat King Cole.
In recent years he contributed arrangements for Streisand’s “Love Is the Answer” and Tony Bennett’s “The Art of Romance.” Decades earlier, Bennett sang a memorable cover of “The Shadow of Your Smile,” the theme from the Richard Burton-Elizabeth Taylor movie “The Sandpiper.” The Mandel-Paul Francis Webster ballad won a Grammy in 1966 for song of the year, topping the Beatles’ “Yesterday” among others, and received an Oscar for best original song.