Jack Nitzsche Dies In Hollywood

Jack Nitzsche
Jack Nitzsche

Jack Nitzsche, an Oscar-winning songwriter, keyboardist and arranger who worked with Phil Spector, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young and Miles Davis, died on Friday, August 25, 2000 in Hollywood. He was 63.

Bernard Alfred Nitzsche was born in Chicago in 1937, and grew up on a farm near Newaygo, Michigan. He hoped to become a jazz saxophonist and moved to Los Angeles in 1955, but dropped out of music school. Mr. Nitzsche became Phil Spector’s arranger in 1962, creating orchestrations for the Crystals, the Ronettes, and Ike and Tina Turner.

During the 1960s he was a session keyboardist and arranger for the Rolling Stones, working on their albums from 1964 to 1974. Starting in 1967, he worked as pianist and arranger for Neil Young, a working relationship that lasted into the 1990s. He also worked with Randy Newman, Marianne Faithfull, the Neville Brothers, Jackie DeShannon and the Monkees, among others.

Under his own name he recorded an instrumental hit, “The Lonely Surfer,” in 1963, and released an album of orchestral pieces, St. Giles Cripplegate [hear a soundsample], in 1972. Andy Childs, in the liner notes to the recording, made by the London Symphony under the direction of David Measham, commented that "hearing it for the first time you could be excused for thinking that it was the work of a highly imaginative, possibly eccentric composer from a bygone age with definitely no knowledge of, or connection with, rock’n’roll." The album is named after the London church of the same name, where the recording took place. Childs refers to the "sudden changes of tempo and volume" in the six pieces, the "intense and sometimes discordant clusters of rhythms and riffs, and the sheer energy and vitality of the music" as "classic Nitzsche trademarks."

Mr. Nitzsche was most widely recognized for his film scores. His 1975 score for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was nominated for an Academy Award, and the song "Up Where We Belong" from An Officer and a Gentleman won Best Song in 1982. He wrote scores for more than 30 films, starting with the 1964 documentary The T.A.M.I. Show, and including such well-known titles as The Exorcist and 9 _ Weeks. His score for The Hot Spot, a 1990 film by Dennis Hopper, brought together John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal and Miles Davis.

Mr. Nitszche died of cardiac arrest brought on by a recurring bronchial infection. He is survived by his son Jack Nitszche, Jr.