Ray Conniff

A big band leader and composer who grew into a smooth, easy listening, lounge crooner, Ray Conniff released over 100 albums, sold 70 million records and became dubbed the "Godfather of Muzak". Taught to play trombone by his father and piano by his mother as a child, Conniff started out playing with Bunny Berigan's Orchestra and Bob Crosby's Bobcats in the 1940s before becoming an in-house arranger for Columbia Records in 1951. He wrote Don Cherry's million-selling single Band Of Gold and led his orchestra on hits by Johnny Mathis, Frankie Laine and Johnnie May, before striking out on his own with the acclaimed debut album S'Wonderful (1956), which unusually featured male and female vocal choruses alongside upbeat big band show tunes. His melodic, uplifting style was compared to the likes of Tony Bennett and Andy Williams and produced a string of hit albums including Christmas With Conniff (1959), Somewhere My Love (1966) and the UK Number 1 His Orchestra, His Chorus, His Singers, His Sound (1969) and he later became one of the first US artists to record and perform in Russia. Conniff's instrumental works proved particularly popular and influential in the 1970s, filling wine bars and providing atmospheric background mood music, and he won a Grammy Award for his signature anthem Somewhere My Love (used as Lara's Theme in the movie Dr Zhivago). An incredibly prolific talent, he gave one of his last public performances at the wedding of Liza Minnelli and David Gest and recorded up until his death in 2002 at 85. His music was also used posthumously in the comedy film Something About Mary.

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