Latest Articles

“Doctor Who”: new doctor, new composer

Friday, August 16th, 2019 at 6:15 pm

The casting of the new Doctor Who — Jodie Whitaker, who is wonderful as the first female doctor in the 55-year history of the BBC sci-fi serial — demanded a new musical approach, too. Producers recruited Segun Akinola, who holds a slightly different distinction: he’s the first person of color to score Doctor Who. I… Read More

Music for Disney remakes and sequels

Thursday, July 18th, 2019 at 4:00 pm

This year Disney and Pixar have been on a roll, revisiting classics and asking their original composers to return with new music, or refreshed versions of their award-winning music from the past. Music is so critical to our appreciation of these fantastic worlds, and in each case Variety asked me to interview the Oscar-winning musical… Read More

Earle Hagen at 100

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019 at 4:31 pm

I couldn’t let the 100th anniversary of the birth of Earle Hagen — one of the most important and most successful composers in TV history — pass without a look back at his massive impact on the medium. For this Variety story, I revisited the interviews I did when the Andy Griffith Show and Dick… Read More

Composer-arranger Sid Ramin, dead at 100

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019 at 5:00 pm

I knew him as the composer of the themes for The Patty Duke Show and The Trials of O’Brien back in the 1960s — and as the creator of the “Come Alive!” Pepsi Generation jingle sung so memorably by Joanie Sommers in that same era. But Sid Ramin, who died July 1 at the age… Read More

Adapting the Beatles’ music for “Yesterday”

Friday, June 28th, 2019 at 5:16 pm

One of the most interesting movie-music assignments of the year fell to composer Daniel Pemberton (Steve Jobs, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), who was recruited by director Danny Boyle to supervise all of the music, on-screen and off, in the romantic comedy Yesterday. There are 25 Beatles songs, heard in part or in their entirety, many… Read More

No Isaac Hayes music in the new “Shaft” movie?

Friday, June 14th, 2019 at 4:44 pm

An unexpected controversy arose over music in the new Shaft movie, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Richard Roundtree and Jessie T. Usher as three generations of the Shaft family. Isaac Hayes III, son of the Oscar- and Grammy-winning soul-music icon, hoped to produce the new film’s soundtrack; but that didn’t happen, and the New Line film… Read More

Lesley Barber’s music for the film “Late Night”

Thursday, June 13th, 2019 at 5:25 pm

Canadian composer Lesley Barber (Manchester by the Sea) started work on the new Emma Thompson-Mindy Kaling comedy Late Night before shooting. Director Nisha Ganatra needed a theme for Thompson’s failing evening talk show! In this Variety story, Barber explains how she “pretended I was Paul Shaffer” to come up with a winning tune, and then… Read More

The Emmy music campaigns begin

Thursday, June 13th, 2019 at 3:09 pm

This year there are seven music categories at the Emmys, the most for any craft discipline except for editing, which has eight. For many years there were five (original music for a series; music for a TV-movie or miniseries; music direction; song; main title theme) but in the past two years the TV Academy has… Read More

John Williams’ music for “Galaxy’s Edge”

Monday, May 20th, 2019 at 3:46 pm

I loved the headline that Variety editors affixed to this story: “John Williams in Disneyland.” Well, sort of: the Imagineers who conceived and built the new Galaxy’s Edge land in the California theme park (soon to open in Florida too) convinced the legendary Star Wars composer to add one more piece to his many existing… Read More

Wynton Marsalis scores “Bolden”

Thursday, May 2nd, 2019 at 5:34 pm

One of the most intriguing musical assignments of Wynton Marsalis’ career had to be scoring the music for Bolden, the dramatization of jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden’s career around the turn of the last century. No recordings of his music exists, so Marsalis essentially invented it with the help of director Dan Pritzker. He ultimately wrote… Read More

Read More Articles

In Person

  • Music of “A Million Little Things”

    June 22, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    The last of the Emmy-worthy music panels I moderated during the run-up to the Emmy nominations was on the music of A Million Little Things, the ABC series about seven close friends who try and come to terms with the mysterious suicide of another of their friends. Composer and songwriter Gabriel Mann (who also scores ABC’s Modern Family) was the focus of the evening, although editor Lauren Connelly, music supervisor Billy Gottlieb and singer-songwriter Kyler England also contributed valuable insights into the scoring process. This was just a few days after my Variety story about Mann, which you can find here.

  • “The Bad Seed” with Leanna Primiani

    May 21, 2019 at 6:31 pm

    One of the most remarkable TV-movie scores of the past season was in Lifetime’s remake of the classic The Bad Seed. The composer was Leanna Primiani, who has many concert-hall credits but is a relatively new voice on the film-music scene. I was so impressed with her music — and, in fact, with actor-director Rob Lowe’s work on the film, which matched the original in scares and suspense — that I agreed to do the Q&A after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the film during Emmy season. It was great fun, and I look forward to more work by this talented composer.

  • Book signing at Maltinfest!

    May 12, 2019 at 6:42 pm

    The first annual Maltinfest was held over the weekend at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, and I was honored to be included in Sunday’s book-signing alongside TCM’s Alicia Malone and the legendary film historian Leonard Maltin himself. These are wonderful people — in case you were wondering, yes, both Alicia and Leonard are as nice as they seem on TV! — and it was massive fun to be with them on a Sunday morning, chatting and signing books for fans. Maltinfest, the brainchild of Leonard’s daughter and podcast partner Jessie, was such a success that they’re already talking about next year’s gathering.

  • Revisiting the U.N.C.L.E. Car, 50 years later

    May 4, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    One of this month’s highlights was attending the opening of the Petersen Automotive Museum’s “Hollywood Dream Machines: Vehicles of Science Fiction and Fantasy” exhibit — especially because they are showcasing the Man From U.N.C.L.E. Car that was such a favorite of mine during the series’ final two seasons in 1966-68 (I later produced seven CDs of original music from the series and its spinoff films). My old friend Robert Short restored and owns this futuristic-looking, one-of-a-kind spy car, and he has loaned it to the museum for the next few months. Bob was there for the opening, too. The U.N.C.L.E. car, fascinatingly, is displayed between two other iconic 1960s vehicles: The Green Hornet‘s Black Beauty and Batman‘s Batcycle. I wanted to get in/on both of them but security would surely have thrown me out.

  • Unveiling “Dave Grusin: Not Enough Time”

    April 30, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    Dave Grusin is one of America’s great musical treasures. And when I found out, a couple of years ago, that a pair of New Mexico filmmakers was making a documentary about this amazing composer-arranger-producer-pianist (needless to say, a favorite of mine since the 1960s) I asked to see an early cut — and to break the news about it in Variety. Director Barbara Bentree was kind enough to allow me an early viewing, so when it was finally finished and ready for its first Hollywood screening, I jumped at the chance to do the Q&A with her and longtime Grusin friends Marcus Miller and Joel Sill. The Society of Composers & Lyricists hosted the Santa Monica screening, attended by two other veteran Grusin collaborators, Quincy Jones and Alan Bergman. Variety colleague Chris Willman chronicled the evening here.

  • “Our Planet” with Steven Price

    April 17, 2019 at 5:52 pm

    On April 5, Netflix unveiled the eight-part Our Planet, the new documentary narrated by the legendary David Attenborough, producer of so many great BBC films about the natural world. This one is conservation-oriented, examining various aspects of the environment (jungles, deserts, the ice caps, forests, the oceans, etc.) with an eye toward what must be done to preserve them. Steven Price (an Oscar winner for Gravity) composed the music, and on April 16 I got to interview him after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening (in Netflix’s fabulous new Hollywood screening room) of the first episode. He talked about the process, about recording with the London Philharmonia, and collaborating with Ellie Goulding on a song for the project.

View More Appearances