Saturday, February 26, 2011

Composer John Strauss Passes On

John Strauss, who composed the classic theme song to the sitcoms The Phil Silvers Show (AKA Sgt. Bilko) and Car 54, Where Are You?, passed at the age of 90 on 14 February 2011. The cause was complications from Parkinson's disease.

John Strauss was born in New York City on 28 April 1920. He took piano lessons as a child. During World War II he served in the United States Army in both France and North Africa. Following the war he studied music composition at Yale.

John Strauss would enter the television industry in a big way. He composed the theme song to the classic sitcom The Phil Silvers Show and also as its music supervisor. His songwriting partner, the multi-talented Nat Hiken, was the show's producer. Mr. Strauss would also work on Nat Hiken's next series, Car 54, Where Are You?, also serving as that show's music supervisor and the composer of its theme song. He would serve as sound editor on the films Blast of Silence (1961) and Take the Money and Run (1969). He also served as music supervisor on the latter film.

From the Sixties into the Naughts, John Strauss served as music editor, music supervisor, or composer on such films as Little Big Man (1970), Bananas (1971), Slaughterhouse Five (1972), Cops and Robbers (1973), Hair (1979), The Blues Brothers (1980),  Ragtime (1981), Amadaeus (1984--on which he also served as conductor), Valmont (1989), Impromptu (1991), and When Danger Follows You Home (1997). On television he served as music editor on L.A. Law and on the mini-series Wild Palms.

Mr. Strauss also composed an opera, The Accused, with a libretto by Sheppard Kerman. Based around the Salem witch trials, it aired on the series Camera Three on CBS in 1961.

There can be no doubt of John Strauss's talent as a composer, music supervisor and conductor. Indeed, he won an Emmy for sound editing on the telefilm The Amazing Howard Hughes. It will perhaps be his status as the man who composed the themes for The Phil Silvers Show and Car 54, Where Are You? for which he will be best remembered. It is notable that, even though Car 54, Where Are You? only lasted two years, its theme songs (with lyrics by Nat Hiken) is remembered to this day. Not many composers can boast a song with such a life span, let alone a television theme. John Strauss can.


mcmjkk said...

Does anyone know if John Strauss ever composed an opera based on Katherine Anne Porter's short story, "Maria Concepcion"?

Mercurie said...

I don't know. It might be worth researching.