Wednesday, August 09, 2017

DAVID RAKSIN plays his theme from "LAURA"

    Let’s call August “DAVID RAKSIN MONTH.”

    He was born August 4, 1912.

    He died August 9, 2004.

    His first brush with movie score fame was helping Charlie Chaplin (who didn’t read music) orchestrate the score for “Modern Times” in 1936. “He did have musical ideas,” Raksin later allowed, but was a bit coy on whether Charlie merely hummed some melodies or actually put together a major amount of the music. 

      Raksin co-wrote music for the Basil Rathbone classic, “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” in 1939, and began getting assignments in low-budget horror films, including “The Undying Monster” and “Dr. Renault’s Secret,” both in 1942. In 1944, Raksin hit his peak with “Laura.” The music was vitally important to the film, the undercurrent of lust and longing being felt by the seemingly stoic detective assigned to Laura's murder.

      Raksin admitted that the heartache swirling through the melody of that piece came from personal experience. His wife left him shortly before work on the score began. The song became a huge hit; some say only "Stardust" had more radio play or sheet music sales. Johnny Mercer was assigned the task of writing lyrics, and it turned out to be one of his more poetic and least corny efforts. 
    Raksin followed “Laura” with the scores for “Fallen Angel” (another Dana Andrews film), “Forever Amber,” “Force of Evil,” and in 1953, "The Bad and the Beautiful" which featured another favorite, “Love Is For the Very Young.” 

    Among other films Raksin scored through the 50’s and 60’s: “The Magnificent Yankee,” “The Next Voice You Hear,” “Pat and Mike,” “Carrie,” “Suddenly,” “The Big Combo,” “Hilda Crane,” “Hellcats of the Navy,” “20 Million Miles to Earth,” “Man on Fire,” “Separate Tables,” “Al Capone,” “The Patsy,” “Invitation to a Gunfighter,” “Sylvia,” “A Big Hand for the Little Lady,” and “Will Penny.” 

     Through the 60’s he was president of the Composers and Lyricists Guild of America, and no doubt, if he’d been around for the Internet era, would’ve been disgusted by the bonfire of the vanities: mindless assholes rushing into forums and shout-boxes every day to throw music around for a few “nice” comments. Telling people you love music by making sure nobody has to buy any, is almost too low, childish and destructive to be classified as something a human would do. It’s more in keeping with the personality of a parasite, a maggot, or a fat, engorged tic. Raksin was the type who would have encouraged the RIAA, BPI and BREIN to hunt down and arrest the inane drones and bratty spoilers making spare change by sharing banner ad money with Communists and criminals in foreign countries.

    The pirates, most of them retards and mental defectives living in outhouses far away from Hollywood or Tin Pan Alley, wouldn’t understand Raksin’s pride and artistry in creating film music: “''What you can't do with a camera or dialogue, music has a way of taking care of. It gets at the deeper emotions that aren't always expressible on film. People who are skeptical about the value of film music should be condemned to watch films without it.''

    Raksin's last important scores were “What’s The Matter with Helen” (1971),  “Ghost of Flight 401” (1978) and “The Day After” (1983). You can tell that Raksin enjoyed the process. Below, at home, he demonstrates the “Laura” theme, taking pride in the flourishes and unique chord changes. Twice married and divorced, I’d like to think that he was as romantic in the bedroom as he was at the keyboard, but perhaps music was his true mistress. He created more film scores than many great composers have written symphonies or concertos. Some of his themes continue to be used as the prelude to romance, or the soundtrack for the act of love itself. There aren’t many popular piano pieces that evoke sensuality and lust as well as “Laura” does. “….but she’s only a dream.”

David Raksin plays
LAURA   Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart passwords, malware or spyware anywhere.

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