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Mike Lang Dead: Renowned Pianist Was 80

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Mike Lang, one of many preeminent pianists in Hollywood historical past, died of lung most cancers Friday morning at his house in Studio Metropolis. He was 80.

Lang performed piano (or organ, harpsichord or celeste) on an estimated 2,000 movie and TV scores courting again to the mid-Sixties, together with scores by just about each nice movie composer of the previous 50 years: John Williams (“Shut Encounters of the Third Variety,” “Catch Me If You Can”), Jerry Goldsmith (“Gremlins,” “The Russia Home”), John Barry (“Physique Warmth,” “The Specialist”), Henry Mancini (“10”), Alex North (“The Sneakers of the Fisherman”), Elmer Bernstein (“The Rainmaker”), Miklós Rózsa (“Lifeless Males Don’t Put on Plaid”) and lots of others.

Composer Lalo Schifrin (“Mission: Inconceivable”) was amongst Lang’s earliest champions in Hollywood, including Lang’s piano to what ultimately grew to become the Grammy-winning Paul Horn album “Jazz Suite on the Mass Texts” in 1965. Lang performed piano for Schifrin on dozens of subsequent albums and movie scores together with the Oscar-nominated “The Competitors” and “The Sting II.”

Lang additionally performed for composers together with James Newton Howard (“Glengarry Glen Ross,” “Woman within the Water”), Alan Menken (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin”), Marc Shaiman (“Metropolis Slickers”), John Debney (“Dreamer”), Hans Zimmer (“As Good As It Will get,” “Pearl Harbor”), Randy Newman (“Toy Story,” “Secretariat”), Danny Elfman (“Batman Returns”), Invoice Conti (“The Proper Stuff”) and Clint Eastwood (“The Bridges of Madison County”), amongst others.

Composer Howard, additionally a pianist, instructed Selection: “Mike was an expensive buddy, colleague and trainer, gifted with monumental expertise. Anybody who knew him would agree there was by no means a extra gracious, humble and good musician – a musician’s musician.”

Ralph Grierson, a fellow studio pianist, recalled the late ’60s-early ’70s period “when there was a plethora of recent keyboard devices, typically a brand new one each week. Hollywood being Hollywood, everybody wished the most recent, hippest sound. Mike and I used to joke about it being ‘earn whilst you study’ as a result of we’d arrive on the studio, discover an instrument we had by no means seen earlier than, and be anticipated to carry out instantly. As a participant, he was top-of-the-line; extra importantly, he was an incredible musician. I’m honored to have been Mike’s colleague and buddy.”

Lang’s lots of of TV credit as keyboardist ranged from “The Waltons” and “Kung Fu” within the Seventies to such later reveals as “Wonderful Tales,” “The Simpsons,” “Frasier,” “Penny Dreadful,” “Household Man,” “American Dad” and “The Orville.”

Interviewed final yr for the “Legacy of John Williams” podcast, Lang mirrored on his course of: “The music itself tells me the right way to relate to it. I’ve a sound in my head. I play as an improviser, even when I’m enjoying Beethoven. I’m listening to the music as if it’s in Beethoven’s head. Once I get it to match, in order that the actual sound comes out of the piano and it matches [what’s in] my head, the piano disappears. It’s a facilitator for me. The very last thing I take into consideration is, ‘I’m a pianist.’ I attempt to make the music breathe, be vocal and expressive, and to that finish the piano loses its identification.”

Lang was familiar with each conceivable musical idiom and style, a versatility that stored him in demand for pop and jazz albums as properly. He performed for Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Willie Nelson, Dionne Warwick, John Denver, Lionel Ritchie, Leonard Cohen, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Vince Gill, NSYNC, Diana Krall, John Lennon, the Commodores, Peggy Lee, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand and Frank Zappa.

He was born Michael Herbert Lang on Dec. 10, 1941, in Los Angeles (however modified his identify, a few years later, to Michael Anthony Lang), the son of Jennings Lang, an agent who later grew to become a producer of such Common movies as “Earthquake” and “Airport 1975.”

Mike Lang started piano classes at age 4 1/2 and ultimately studied music with L.A. composers Leonard Stein and George Tremblay, studio pianist Pearl Kaufman, and Schifrin. He graduated with a music diploma from the College of Michigan in 1963.

Along with his studio work, Lang usually performed jazz golf equipment within the L.A. space together with Donte’s, Shelly’s Manne Gap, the Baked Potato and different venues. He later produced albums for his stepmother, singer-actress Monica Lewis and, in 1994, issued his first solo album on the Varèse Sarabande label, a set of Henry Mancini songs he organized and carried out titled “Days of Wine and Roses.”

Lang turned composer briefly, for Robert Forster’s 1986 movie “Hollywood Harry,” and through the years penned songs for such jazz notables as Stan Getz, Bob James, Lee Ritenour, Herb Alpert, Tom Scott and Dave Grusin. He additionally debuted jazz piano concerti by Byron Olson and Brad Dechter.

In July 2019 he performed a sold-out Piano Spheres live performance on the Colburn Faculty’s Zipper Corridor that earned a rave from the L.A. Occasions: “considered one of L.A.’s nice identified unknowns, a pianist and composer who doesn’t usually get the highlight… Lang reminds us of the seldom acknowledged however important intersection between up to date music and Hollywood… the revelation right here was listening to our metropolis’s musical identification in a single voice.”

Survivors embrace his accomplice, Deborah Pearl; former partner Karen Lang; son Dave Lang, additionally a musician; a brother, producer-director Rocky Lang, and grandson Sonny.

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