Passings: James Last (1929 - 2015)

German composer and bandleader James Last has died at his home in Florida surrounded by family. He was 86.

His manager released a statement saying:
Mr Last passed away yesterday in Florida, peacefully and in the presence of his family.

In him, the world loses a unique ambassador whose expressive and all-encompassing language was music.

We bid farewell to the man, friend and visionary, who by his impressive strength and openness, his professionalism, modesty and love of life served as a role model and as an inspiration for many generations worldwide.
Last, who was known for his "happy music", was one of the few easy listening artists whose orchestral and band music outlasted its 50's and 60's heyday. After artists like Percy Faith and Ray Conniff had stopped selling in big numbers, Last continued, charting internationally into the this decade.

Last began studying the piano at the age of 10 in his home of Sebaldsbruck, Germany and later added bass, brass instruments and tuba while studying at the Buckeberg Military Music School.

After the war, James joined the Hans Gunther Oesterreich Radio Bremen Dance Orchestra and, two years later in 1948, started his own Last-Becker Ensemble with Karl-Heinz Becker. For seven years, the group toured the country with Last being recognized as best bassist in a German jazz poll three times from 1950 to 1952.

In the mid-50's, the Last-Becker Ensemble disbanded and James became the in-house arranger for Polydor working with a variety of artists including Lolita, Helmut Zacharias and Catarina Valente.

It wasn't until 1965 that Last found success as a recording artist with his album Non-Stop Dancing which included brief versions of popular songs of the day with a dance beat and the sound of a party tieing them all together. The concept became one of Last's mainstays with additional volumes released over the years.

Last also brought classical music to a wider audience with his nine volume series Classics Up To Date. Overall, James Last released over 150 albums, 45 of which made the British Top 40 between 1967 and 2011, second only to Elvis Presley. He had one only one hit single, The Seduction from the 1980 movie American Gigolo, which went to number 28 on the U.S. Hot 100 and 48 in the U.K.

As a composer, Last wrote the hit Happy Heart which charted in versions by both Andy Williams and Petula Clark along with Fool which was recorded by Elvis Presley.

Last did a final concert tour earlier this year after it became clear that he was ill, including his 89th and 90th performances at London's Royal Albert Hall.

He is survived by his second wife, Christine, and a son and daughter from his first marriage.

1 comment

Anonymous said...

He was a great musician. Rest In Peace ... God will have a big party now!

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