Michael Kamen

Michael Kamen
Michael Arnold Kamen

Michael Kamen, 1993
Background information
Born April 15, 1948(1948-04-15)
New York City, New York,
United States
Died 18 November 2003(2003-11-18) (aged 55)
London, England,
United Kingdom
Genres Film score
Occupations Composer
Instruments Oboe, Piano
Years active 1976–2003

Michael Arnold Kamen (April 15, 1948 – November 18, 2003) was an American composer (especially of film scores), orchestral arranger, orchestral conductor, song writer, and session musician.



Kamen was born in New York City, USA. He was the second of four sons. His father Saul Kamen was a dentist, and his mother was a teacher.

While attending the The High School of Music & Art in New York City, Michael Kamen met and became friends with Martin Fulterman (later known as Mark Snow, who composed the theme music for The X-Files among other projects). While studying the oboe, he formed a rock classical fusion band called New York Rock & Roll Ensemble, together with classmates Fulterman and Dorian Rudnytsky. The group performed their music while dressed in tuxedos. In the middle of the concert, Fulterman and Kamen would play an oboe duet. The group backed up friend and classmate Janis Ian in a concert at Alice Tully Hall in late 1967.

After graduating high school, Kamen attended The Juilliard School, also in New York City.

Early work

Kamen's early work centered on ballets, thirteen in all, then expanding into Hollywood by writing the score for The Next Man in 1976, then into pop and rock arranging, collaborating with Pink Floyd on their album, The Wall.

Career in popular music

Kamen became a highly-sought arranger in the realms of pop and rock music. His contemporaries in this field included Academy Award winner Anne Dudley, Richard Niles, and Nick Ingman. His successes include his work with Pink Floyd, David Gilmour and Roger Waters[1] (he is one of the few people to have been invited to work with both former Pink Floyd members, after their acrimonious split), as well as Queen (orchestration on Who Wants To Live Forever), Eric Clapton (on Edge of Darkness), Roger Daltrey, Aerosmith (live orchestral version of Dream On for MTV), Tom Petty, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Eurythmics, Queensrÿche, Rush, Metallica (on their live album, S&M), Def Leppard, Herbie Hancock, The Cranberries, Bryan Adams, Jim Croce, Sting, and Kate Bush. For Bush, Kamen delivered an orchestral backing for "Moments of Pleasure" from The Red Shoes album, substantially building upon a simple piano theme Bush had composed. In this instance, and many others, he conducted the orchestra personally for the recording. In 1984, Kamen had similarly heightened the impact of a pop recording for the Eurythmics "Here Comes the Rain Again", that score relying as much on his compositional skills as his arranging talents. Five years later, he did the music for For Queen and Country.

In 1990, Kamen joined many other guests for Roger Waters' performance of The Wall in Berlin and headed the National Philharmonic Orchestra during the 24 Nights sessions with Eric Clapton the following year.

Lenny Kravitz recorded a cover of "Fields of Joy" on his 1991 CD Mama Said that Michael co-wrote with Hal Fredricks.

In 2002, he was part of the Concert for George as string conductor.

Kamen had a very successful partership with Bryan Adams and R.J. Lange composing scores and songs. The ballad "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" for the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves would be the number one song of that year, worldwide. Other songs would be "All For Love" for the movie "The Three Musketeers" in 1993, and "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" the song from the film "Don Juan DeMarco" in 1995.

Career as film composer and other works

Kamen wrote eleven ballets, a saxophone concerto and an electric guitar concerto (with Japanese guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei as a soloist). Additionally, he wrote a commissioned work, "Quintet," for the Canadian Brass. He also provided scores for the films such as Back to Gaya, The Dead Zone (film), For Queen and Country, Polyester, Brazil, Someone To Watch Over Me, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Three Musketeers, Highlander, X-Men, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Licence to Kill, the Lethal Weapon series, the first three films of the Die Hard series, Mr. Holland's Opus, The Iron Giant, Splitting Heirs, Frequency, and many others. To this day the overture from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is used by Morgan Creek Productions for its logo, while New Line's corresponding theme is the opening segment of a track from Highlander. He also scored both the From the Earth to the Moon and Band of Brothers series on HBO. The trailer for the 2008 Disney/Pixar release WALL-E featured Kamen's 'Central Services / The Office' from his Brazil 1985 OST.

In television, Kamen composed music for two series of The Manageress produced by Glenn Wilhide at Zed Productions for Channel 4, but perhaps his best known work was on the 1985 BBC Television serial Edge of Darkness, on which he collaborated with Eric Clapton to write the score. The pair were awarded with a British Academy Television Award for Best Original Television Music for their work and performed the main movie theme with the National Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall of London in 1990 and 1991. In 1994, Kamen conducted an orchestration of The Who's music for Roger Daltrey's 50th birthday concert series entitled Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and The Who which was subsequently released on CD and DVD. He also worked with heavy metal band Metallica, on a two day concert that was held in Berkeley, California, with the San Francisco Symphony. A recording of the concert, titled S&M, debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200, won a Grammy for the "Best Rock Instrumental Performance" in 2000 and went multi-platinum in 2001.

Kamen was nominated for two Academy Awards and won three Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes, two Ivor Novello Awards, an Annie Award and an Emmy.

Later years

His involvement with Mr. Holland's Opus, a film about a frustrated composer who finds fulfillment as a high school music teacher, led Kamen to create The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation in 1996. The foundation supports music education through the donation of new and refurbished musical instruments to underserved school and community music programs and individual students in the United States. In 2005 the foundation created an emergency fund for schools and students affected by Hurricane Katrina.

In 1999, Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony constructed and performed a concert with thrash metal band Metallica.[2] This concert was released as a live album on DVD, VHS and CD, under the title S&M (an acronym for "Symphony and Metallica" but also wordplay on the abbreviation for sadomasochism). In 2001 and 2002, Kamen performed with David Gilmour at Gilmour's semi-unplugged shows at the Royal Festival Hall, playing piano and cor anglais. The 2001 concert and highlights from 2002 were released as a DVD as David Gilmour in Concert.

In 2002, Kamen, along with Julian Lloyd Webber, Dame Evelyn Glennie, and Sir James Galway launched the Music Education Consortium in the UK. The consortium's efforts led to the injection of £332 million for music education in the UK. He was also commissioned to write piece for the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.[3]

Kamen was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1997. He died in London from a heart attack in 2003, at the age of 55. His last recorded work appeared on Bryan Adams's album Room Service where he played the oboe and wrote the orchestration to "I Was Only Dreamin'". Kamen had also completed the charts for accompaniment to two songs on Kate Bush's album Aerial, which was released in November 2005. Some of Bush's fans, pleased by Kamen's scoring of "Moments of Pleasure" from Bush's 1993 album The Red Shoes, expressed gratitude when it became known that the work had been finished.[citation needed]

In 2004, when Annie Lennox accepted the Academy Award for Best Original Song (her composition "Into the West" from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), she dedicated her achievement to the memory of Kamen.

The 2004 movies First Daughter and Boo, Zino & the Snurks|Back To Gaya, which he was working on at the time of his passing, were dedicated to his memory.

David Gilmour's 2006 album On an Island was dedicated in his and longtime Pink Floyd manager Steve O'Rourke's memories.

Personal life

Michael Kamen is survived by his wife, Sandra Keenan-Kamen, and by his daughters, Sasha and Zoe.


  1. ^ Mabbett, Andy (1995). The complete guide to the music of Pink Floyd. London: Omnibus. pp. 150p. ISBN 071194301x. 
  2. ^ Custodis, Michael. chapters "Film Music in Concert: Metallica mit Michael Kamen" and "Moment of Glory - The Scorpions und die Berliner Philharmoniker", in: Klassische Musik heute. Eine Spurensuche in der Rockmusik, Bielefeld transcript-Verlag 2009. ISBN 978-3-8376-1249-3
  3. ^ Obituary: Michael Kamen, The Independent, 21 November 2003.

External links

Preceded by
John Barry
James Bond film score composer
Succeeded by
Éric Serra

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