John Cacavas


It is with deep regret that I inform you of the passing of our dear friend and colleague, John Cacavas.

Born in Aberdeen, South Dakota, he made his way to Hollywood after graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in composition and theory then a stint in the U.S. Army band as chief arranger.

His collaboration with army buddy, Charles Osgood, on The Golden Door earned him the first of his two Freedoms Foundation Awards. The second award honored his score for Gallant Men, an album recorded by Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen, which also won John a Grammy® award.

An Emmy® award-winner with multiple nominations, John was a prolific composer and arranger scoring over 400 one-hour TV shows, 50 television movies and 15 feature films. Hawaii Five-O, Matlock, Switch, Columbo, Mrs. Columbo, Quincy, Buck Rogers, Gangster Chronicles, Lady Blue, Four Seasons and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not were all shows that were fortunate enough to have John’s scores but it was a chance meeting with Telly Savalas that led to a long and close friendship and the show for which he will be forever associated, Kojak, of which he scored 114 episodes over its 5-year run.

John also wrote memorable scores for such classic movies as King of Comedy, Airport ’75 & ’77, Pancho Villa, Hanger 18, Playing With Fire and the cult favorite, The Satanic Rites of Dracula.

More recently, he wrote the theme song for the 2005 video game Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories. The song, “March Popakov Remix”, was sampled by DJ Danger Mouse and is used frequently in the game.

However, what many of you may not know is that John was somewhat of a Renaissance man creative in painting, collages, cooking, a great raconteur and a respected author. Aside from his novel “A Song for Lynbidium” and his memoir “It’s More than Do-Re-Mi”, he wrote two excellent instructional tomes, “The Art of Writing Music” and “Music Arranging and Orchestration”, the latter of which was required reading when I was studying at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music. It still holds pride of place in my bookcase to this day.

I could go on about John’s accomplishments for ages but it was his love our our craft that will be the thing I remember most about him. From his days as president of the Composer & Lyricists Guild of America through all his years of invaluable service on the SCL’s advisory board, John was a pillar of the musical community and his passing leaves a void that will be felt by us all for years to come

John, we owe you a great deal

Rest in peace.

Ashley Irwin

A Note from our Past President

The Society of Composers & Lyricists has lost one of its true champions. Our advisory board member, John Cacavas was an accomplished composer, songwriter, educator, author, a tireless advocate for composer rights and above all, my friend. As many of you know, John and his charming wife, Bonnie, graciously offered their home for our annual Oscar reception, and it was through these events that I had the opportunity to know one of the most remarkable couples in our community. John’s passion for living, which took him to exotic environs around the world, was the same passion that he demonstrated in protecting our creative rights; first as president of the Composers and Lyricists Guild of America and later as a long time board member of ASCAP. His music, books and joy for all things good will be remembered by all of us. Our love goes out to our dear friend, Bonnie, and her family at this difficult time.

Dan Foliart

Past President