Dave Grusin


2007 SCL Ambassador Presentation to Dave Grusin, excerpted from Dan Foliart’s introductory remarks.

The SCL created the Ambassodor Program five years ago to recognize and acknowledge a select group of composers and lyricists without whose valuable contributions our profession would be less than it is; without whose creativity our artistic community would be lacking and without whose gift, our society would be deprived of wonderful music and song expressed by their genius. Their achievements will be used as the ultimate standard for future generations of film composers and songwriters. Those honorees have been Earle Hagen, Ray Evans, Ray Charles, Vic Mizzy.Van Alexander, The Sherman Brothers, David Shire and Johnny Mandel.

Dave Grusin has mastered every facet of our profession over the course of his amazing career: consummate arranger and orchestrator, crated songwriter, world-class pianist, gifted composer and even a successful businessman to top it off.

Dave was born into a musical family in Littleton, Colorado, and stayed in his home state to graduate as a piano major from the University of Colorado, before moving to New York to begin graduate work at the Manhattan School of Music. He has since received honorary degrees from both his Alma madder and also Berkeley. He soon moved to Los Angeles and one of his earliest associations was with Andy Williams for whom he acted as music director for his series and pianist for many of his top hits. During this time he began to record his own albums for Columbia and Epic and many are considered classics such as Subways are for Sleeping, Piano, Strings and Moonlight and Kaleidoscope, and at the same time he started doing work with our Advisory Board member, Quincy Jones. Through his career he has added his touch to Quincy’s albums such as Body Heat and I Heard That.

The first time I personally became aware of Dave’s talent was listening to those great Sergio Mendes records like Crystal Illusion and Fool on the Hill. The crafting of the unique rhythm arrangements, which worked so seamlessly with the rich strings, on songs such as So Many Stars and The Look of Love guaranteed that those records were going to be grooved out in a very short time at my house. Year after year along with whatever endeavor he might be involved with, he has continued to add his unique touch to classic songs. I remember the first time that I heard his arrangement to The Water is Wide and Shenandoah from his Two Worlds album. Although I had listened to these songs hundreds of times, it wasn’t until I heard Dave’s arrangements that I truly heard them. His unmistakable arrangement to my favorite Christmas song, Alfred Burt’s Some Children See Him is an understated masterpiece and is always a favorite around our home this time of year. He has given his personal touch to so many classic works and they have fortunately made their way into unforgettable renderings such as: The Gershwin Collection, Two for the Road: The Music of Henry Mancini, West Side Story, and Homage to Duke, and these are only a few of his great tributes to other composers. The artistry of these albums are only rivaled by the many albums of his own material, which he continues to record and we’re so happy he does.

In 1982 Dave co-founded GRP Records, with his drummer from Andy Williams’ band, Larry Rosen. As everyone in this room knows, this was THE record company of its time. Dave’s classic Mountain Dance was the first digitally recorded album outside of classical music and the company was the first label to release all of their albums on compact disc. The CDs were always well-packaged and well-recorded and Its roster included the best straight-ahead jazz (Gerry Mulligan, Dizzy Gillespie, Diane Schurr), contemporary jazz (Chick Corea, Kevin Eubanks, Lee Ritenour Eddie Daniels, Special EFX and of course, Dave and his brother, Don, who we are so happy to have with us tonight) and traditional big band, The Glenn Miller orchestra.

Dave worked his magic numerous times on his scores and themes in the area of television music. The St. Elsewhere Theme was ground breaking in its use of electronics and it remains to this day one of the classic themes of all times, as is his theme from Baretta, Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow.

Of all of Dave’s many accomplishments, what he has brought to the art of film music is perhaps most significant. His association through most of these films has been with the consummate music editor, Else Blangsted, who received the Motion Picture Sound Editors Career Achievement Award just last year, and we are so pleased to have her with us tonight. His contributions to cinema will live forever as a testimonial to what the magic of music can truly bring to film. The opening titles of On Golden Pond evoke an emotional response that only our profession can accomplish. The sensitivity that these opening strains and the ensuing underscore bring to the film is immeasurable, and we truly thank you for this.

Dave’s classic scores over the years have been: Divorce American Style, The Graduate, The Heart is A Lonely Hunter, Three Days of the Condor, Bobby Deerfield, The Good-bye Girl, Heaven Can Wait, The Champ, The Electric Horseman, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Havana, The Firm, Hope Floats, and last year’s Even Money, and this is to name just a few.

He has received numerous Grammy Award nominations and five awards. His scores to On Golden Pond, The Champ and Heaven Can Wait received Academy Award nominations as well as his song with Alan and Marilyn Bergman from Tootsie, It Might be You. He won the Academy Award for his score to The Milagro Beanfield War.

We are very pleased to extend our love and admiration to Dave Grusin tonight as our seventh SCL Ambassador and wish him continued success as he continues to add his wonderful talent to our business.

In 2020, Dave Grusin participated in a Q&A following a screening of the documentary Dave Grusin: Not Enough Time (https://www.grusinfilm.com/).

The video of that event is available here.