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Michel Legrand

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Michel Jean Legrand (born 24 February 1932) is a French musical composer, arranger, conductor, and pianist. Legrand is a prolific composer, having written over 200 film and television scores in addition to many memorable songs.[1] He is best known for his often haunting film music and scores, such as The Umbrellas of Cherbourg(1964) and The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) featuring the song "The Windmills of Your Mind" for which he won his first Academy Award.[2]


 [hide*1 Early life

Early life[edit]Edit

Legrand was born in Bécon les Bruyères, near ParisFrance. His father Raymond Legrand was a conductor and composer renowned for hits such as Irma la douce, and his mother was Marcelle Der Mikaëlian (sister of conductor Jacques Hélian), who married Legrand Senior in 1929. His maternal grandfather was of Armenian descent, from the Armenian bourgeoisie.[3]


Legrand has composed more than two hundred film and television scores and several musicals and has made well over a hundred albums. He has won three Oscars (out of 13 nominations) and five Grammys and has been nominated for an Emmy. He was twenty-two when his first album, I Love Paris, became one of the best-selling instrumental albums ever released. He is a virtuoso jazz and classical pianist and an accomplished arranger and conductor who performs with orchestras all over the world.

He studied music at the Paris Conservatoire from 1943-50 (ages 11–18), working with, among others, Nadia Boulanger, who also taught many other composers, including Aaron Copland and Philip Glass, and Ástor Piazzolla. Legrand graduated with top honors as both a composer and a pianist.[3]

Jazz recordings[edit]Edit

Legrand has also contributed significant work in jazz.[4] While on a visit to the U.S. in 1958, Legrand collaborated with such musicians as Miles DavisJohn ColtraneBill EvansPhil WoodsBen WebsterHank Jones, and Art Farmer in an album of inventive orchestrations of jazz standards titled Legrand Jazz. The following year, back in Paris with bassist Guy Pedersen and percussionist Gus Wallez, he recorded an album of Paris-themed songs arranged for jazz piano trio, titled Paris Jazz Piano. Nearly a decade later he recorded At Shelly's Manne-Hole (1968), an exciting live trio session with bassist Ray Brown and drummer Shelly Manne, in which four of the compositions were improvised on the spot. Legrand also provided an odd scat vocal on "My Funny Valentine." Legrand returned to his role as jazz arranger for the Stan Getz album Communications '72 and resumed his collaboration with Phil Woods on Jazz Le Grand (1979) and After the Rain (1982); then, he collaborated with violinist Stephane Grappelli on an album in 1992. Not as well received as his earlier work in the field of jazz was a 1994 album for LaserLight titled Michel Plays Legrand. More recently, in 2002, he recorded a masterful solo jazz piano album reworking fourteen of his classic songs, Michel Legrand by Michel Legrand. His jazz piano style is virtuosic and eclectic, drawing upon such influences as Art TatumErroll GarnerOscar Peterson, and Bill Evans.

A number of his songs, including "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?," "Watch What Happens," "The Summer Knows," and "You Must Believe in Spring," have become jazz standards covered frequently by other artists.


During various periods of creative work, Legrand became a conductor for orchestras in St. PetersburgVancouverMontrealAtlantaPittsburgh, and Denver. He recorded more than one hundred albums with international musical stars (spanning the genres of jazz, variety, and classical) and worked with such diverse musicians as Phil WoodsRay CharlesClaude NougaroPerry ComoNeil DiamondElla FitzgeraldAretha FranklinLena HorneJames IngramJack JonesKiri te KanawaTamara GverdciteliFrankie LaineTereza KesovijaJohnny MathisJessye NormanDiana RossFrank SinatraBarbra StreisandSarah Vaughan,Shirley BasseyRegine VelasquezNana Mouskouri and Natalie Dessay.

Legrand has also recorded classical piano pieces by Erik Satie and American composers such as Amy BeachGeorge GershwinAaron CoplandJohn Cage, and Conlon Nancarrow. He is a prolific recorder of jazz, popular and classical music albums, having released over one hundred.[5]

His sister, Christiane Legrand, was a member of the Swingle Singers, and his niece Victoria Legrand is a member of the indie rock duo Beach House.[6]

Film scores[edit]Edit

Legrand is known principally as a composer of innovative music for films, composing film scores (about two hundred to date) for directors Jean-Luc GodardRichard BrooksClaude LelouchClint EastwoodRobert AltmanJoseph Losey, and many others. Legrand himself appears and performs in Agnès Varda's French New Wave classic, Cleo from 5 to 7 (1961). After his songs appeared in Jacques Demy's films The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and The Young Girls of Rochefort (1966), Legrand became famous worldwide. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg was a sung-through musical in which all the dialogue was set to music, a revolutionary concept at the time.

Hollywood soon became interested in Legrand after The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, bombarding him with requests to compose music for films. Having begun to collaborate with Hollywood, Legrand continued to work there for many years. Among his best-known scores are those for The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), which features the hit song "The Windmills of Your Mind", and Summer of '42 (1971), which features another hit song, "The Summer Knows." Legrand also wrote the score for Orson Welles's last-completed film, F for Fake (1974).

Music charts[edit]Edit

Legrand's instrumental version of the theme from Brian's Song charted for eight weeks in 1972, peaking at #56.[7]

Currently, Legrand divides his time between America and France.

Selected discography[edit]Edit


  • Beau fixe (short) (1953)
  • Lovers Net (Les amants du Tage) (1954)
  • Charmants garçons (1958)
  • Le Triporteur (1958)
  • L'Amérique insolite (1958)
  • L'Americain se détend (1958)
  • Lola (1960)
  • Terrain vague (co-composer) (1960)
  • A Woman Is a Woman (Une femme est une femme) (1960)
  • The French Game (Le cœur battant) (1960)
  • Les Portes claquent (1960)
  • Cléo from 5 to 7 (Cléo de 5 à 7) (1961)
  • The Seven Deadly Sins (Les Sept péchés capitaux) (co-composer) (1961)
  • The Winner (Un cœur gros comme ça) (1961)
  • Retour a New York (1962)
  • Comme un poisson dans l'eau (1962)
  • Eva (1962)
  • Une grosse tete (1962)
  • My Life to Live (Vivre sa Vie: Film en Douze Tableaux) (1962)
  • Bay of Angels (La baie des anges) (1962)
  • L'Amerique lunaire (1962)
  • Histoire d'un petit garcon devenu grand (1962)
  • Le Joli Mai (1962)
  • Illuminations (1963)
  • Le grand escroc (1963)
  • L'Empire de la nuit (1963)
  • Love Is a Ball (1963)
  • The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) (1964)
  • A Ravishing Idiot (Une ravissante idiote) (1964)
  • Band of Outsiders (Bande à part) (1964)
  • Fascinante amazonie (1964)
  • Les amoureux du France (1964)
  • La Douceur du village (1964)
  • A Matter of Resistance (La vie de château) (1965)
  • Quand passent les faisans (1965)
  • Tender Scoundrel (Tendre voyou) (1965)
  • Monnaie de singe (1965)
  • The Young Girls of Rochefort (Les Demoiselles de Rochefort) (1966)
  • Who Are You, Polly Magoo? (Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo?) (1966)
  • The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean (1966)
  • L'an 2000 (1966)
  • Gold and Lead (L'or et le plomb) (1966)
  • A Matter of Innocence (also known as Pretty Polly) (1967)
  • L'homme à la Buick (1967)
  • How to Save a Marriage — And Ruin Your Life (1967)
  • Sweet November (1968)
  • The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
  • The Swimming Pool (La piscine) (1968)
  • Play Dirty (1968)
  • The Appointment (rejected) (1968)
  • Ice Station Zebra (1968)
  • Michel's Mixed Up Musical Bird (1968)
  • Castle Keep (1969)
  • The Happy Ending (1969)
  • Picasso Summer (1969)
  • Pieces of Dreams (1969)
  • The Go-Between (1970)
  • The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart (1970)
  • Wuthering Heights (1970)
  • Donkey Skin (Peau d'Âne) (1970)
  • The Lady in the Car With Glasses And a Gun (La dame dans l'auto avec des lunettes et un fusil) (1970)
  • The Married Couple of the Year Two (Les mariés de l'an II) (1971)
  • Summer of '42 (1971)
  • Le Mans (1971)
  • Touch and Go (La Poudre d'escampette) (1971)
  • A Few Hours of Sunlight (Un Peu De Sloeil Dans L’eau Froide) (1971)
  • La vieille Fille (1971)
  • A Time for Loving (Also: Paris Was Made for Lovers) (1971)
  • Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
  • Portnoy's Complaint (1972)
  • Les feux de la Chandeleur (1972)
  • The Impossible Object (1972)
  • One Is a Lonely Number (1972)
  • A Doll's House (1973)
  • The Nelson Affair (Also: A Bequest to the Nation) (1973)
  • The Outside Man (Un homme est mort) (1973)
  • The Hostages (Le gang des otages) (1973)
  • Forty Carats (1973)
  • Cops and Robbers (1973)
  • Breezy (1973)
  • The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (rejected) (1973)
  • The Three Musketeers (1973)
  • Our Time (1974)
  • The Four Musketeers (1974)
  • The Most Important Event Since Man Walked on the Moon (L'Evenement le plus important depuis que l'homme marche sur la lune) (1974)
  • F for Fake (1974)
  • Section spéciale (Special Section) (1975)
  • The Savage (Le sauvage) (1975)
  • Gulliver's Travels (1975)
  • Sheila Levine is Dead — and Living in New York (1975)
  • Gable and Lombard (1976)
  • Ode to Billy Joe (1976)
  • Le voyage de noces (1976)
  • The Smurfs and the Magic Flute (La flute a six schtroumpfs) (1976)
  • The Other Side of Midnight (1977)
  • Routes to the South (Les routes du sud) (1978)
  • Mon premier amour (1978)
  • Lady Oscar (1978)
  • The Phoenix (1978)
  • Je Vous Ferai Aimer La Vie (1979)
  • The Fabulous Adventures of The Legendare Baron Munchhausen (Les fabuleuses aventures du légendaire Baron de Munchausen) (1979)
  • Atlantic City (1980)
  • The Hunter (1980)
  • The Mountain Men (1980)
  • Les Uns et les Autres (also known as Bolero) (1980)
  • Hinotori (co-composer) (1980)
  • Falling in Love Again (1981)
  • What Makes David Run? (Qu'est-ce qui fait courir David?) (1981)
  • La cadeau (1981)
  • Chu Chu and the Philly Flash (1981)
  • Your Ticket Is No Longer Valid (1982)
  • Slapstick of Another Kind (1982) (1982 cut)
  • La revanche des humanoides (1982)
  • Best Friends (1982)
  • The Gift (1982)
  • Yentl (1983)
  • Never Say Never Again (1983)
  • A Love in Germany (Un amour en Allemagne) (1983)
  • Secret Places (1984)
  • Micki and Maude (1984)
  • Love Songs (Paroles et musique) (1984)
  • Palace (1985)
  • Partir, revenir (1985)
  • Train to Hell (Train d'enfer) (1985)
  • Parking (1985)
  • Crossings (1986)
  • Sins (1986)
  • Casanova (1987)
  • Social Club (Club de recontres) (1987)
  • Spirale (1987)
  • Switching Channels (1988)
  • Three Seats for the 26th (Trois places pour le 26) (1988)
  • Five Days in June (Cinq jours en juin) (1989)
  • Escape from Paradise (Fuga dal Paradiso) (1990)
  • Predator 2 (1990)
  • Dingo with Miles Davis (1991)
  • Gaspard et Robinson (1991)
  • Pure Luck (1991)
  • The Burning Shore (1991)
  • The Pickle (1993)
  • Ready to Wear (Prêt-à-Porter) (1994)
  • Angels in the Outfield (1994)
  • Operation Dumbo Drop (1995)
  • Les Enfants de Lumière (1995)
  • Gone Fishin' (1997)
  • Aaron's Magic Village (1997)
  • Madeline (1998)
  • Doggy Bag (1999)
  • Season's Beatings (La Bûche) (1999)
  • The Blue Bicycle (La Bicyclette Bleue) (2000)
  • Cavalcade (2005)
  • Oscar and the Lady In Pink (Oscar Et Le Dame En Rose) (2009)
  • Max Rose (2013)

Computer games[edit]Edit


Musical theatre[edit]Edit

Legrand composed the score for the musical Amour, which premiered in 2002 on Broadway and was translated into English by Jeremy Sams and was directed by James Lapine.[9] This musical was his Broadway debut, and while it ran for only 17 performances and 31 previews, it garnered a loyal fan base due to its much-praised cast album on Ghostlight Records, and subsequent multiple Tony Award nominations (2003), including Best Score for Michel Legrand and Best Actress for its leading actress Melissa Errico.[10]

Legrand continued his collaboration with Errico to the present day, appearing at such jazz venues as Dizzy's at Lincoln Center. Though he has rarely done this for any solo artist, Michel Legrand arranged, conducted and accompanied Errico with a 100-piece symphony on her CD "Legrand Affair" (released in October 2011 on Ghostlight Records) featuring his songs, hidden French gems, as well as one new song with lyrics byAlan and Marilyn Bergman.[11] The CD was produced by Phil Ramone[12] and is featured in Ramone's biography "Making Records."

The world premiere of the new musical Marguerite from Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, the creators of Les Misérables and Miss Saigon, included music by Michel Legrand and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer.Marguerite is set during World War II in occupied Paris, and was inspired by the romantic novel La Dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas, fils. It premiered in May 2008 at the Haymarket Theatre, London and was directed by Jonathan Kent.[13][14]


Legrand has won three Oscars (out of 13 nominations), five Grammys, and has been nominated for an Emmy. The following are some of the awards and nominations with which Legrand's works have been honored:

Academy Award Nominations[edit]Edit

Golden Globe Nominations[edit]Edit

  • Original Score:
  • Original Song:
    • "The Windmills of Your Mind" from The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) (won)
    • "What are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" from The Happy Ending (1969)
    • "Pieces of Dreams" from Pieces of Dreams (1970)
    • "Breezy's Song" from Breezy (1973)
    • "Yesterday's Dreams" from Falling in love again (1980)
    • "The Way He Makes Me Feel" from Yentl (1983)

Grammy Award Nominations[edit]Edit

  • Best arrangement accompanying vocalist: Happy Ending (Sarah Vaughn) (1972)
  • Song of the year: "The Summer Knows" from Summer of '42 (1972)
  • Best instrumental composition: "Brian's Song" [TV] (1972)
  • Best original score written for a motion picture or television special: The Three Musketeers (1974)
  • Best instrumental composition: "Images" (1982)
  • Best jazz performance by a Big Band: "Images" (1982)
  • Best original score album: Yentl (1983)
  • Best instrumental arrangement accompanying vocals: Yentl (Barbra Streisand) (1983)

Theatre Nominations[edit]Edit

Emmy Award Nominations[edit]Edit

  • Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Limited Series or a Special (Dramatic Underscore): "A Woman Called Golda" [TV] (1982)

Fennecus Nominations[edit]Edit

  • Song score, original or adaptation: Yentl (1983)
  • Original song: "The Way He Makes Me Feel" from Yentl (1983)

Apex Nominations[edit]Edit

  • Original score, comedy: Best Friends (1982)
  • Original song, drama: "The Way He Makes Me Feel" from Yentl (1983)
  • Original song score/adaptation/compilation, drama: Yentl (1983)

Australian Film Institute Award nominations[edit]Edit

  • Best Original Music Score: Dingo (1991)

Prix Moliere Award (France)[edit]Edit

  • Best musical: Le Passe-Muraille

ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers)[edit]Edit

  • Henry Mancini Award for Le Passe-Muraille

Golden Eagle Award[edit]Edit

  • Outstanding contribution to world cinema (2002)

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