Neal Hefti


The Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL) mourns the loss of our dear friend and colleague, composer, conductor, arranger, trumpeter NEAL HEFTI. The Grammy-winning composer was born October 22, 1922 in Hastings, Nebraska, and died on October 11, 2008 in Los Angeles just short of his 86th birthday. The memorial service scheduled is private until further notice. His wife, Frances Wayne, preceded him in death in the 70’s. They met when they were both with the Woody Herman orchestra in the 1940s, he as a trumpeter, she as a singer.

SCL President DAN FOLIART shares his thoughts about NEAL HEFTI:

The SCL has lost a colleague and a man of immense talent. Neal Hefti, was one of those rare individuals who excelled in many different areas, and whose contribution to each was significant. I was fortunate to become a friend over the last few years and I can say that his modest demeanor belied his many accomplishments. His facile use of the orchestra was his trademark and his legacy includes many works that are classics in the repertoire of film, records and song.

Getting his first entrée into the film world in 1964 his scores included Sex and the Single Girl, How to Murder Your Wife, Harlow, Boeing-Boeing. Oh Dad Poor Dad, Duel at Diablo, Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, and Last of the Red Hot Lovers. Of course, for those of us who grew up in the sixties, his Batman Theme will probably rank among the most memorable of all time

Neal was generous in sharing his thoughts with young SCL members such as Steve Greaves and he was self-effacing in playing down his mastery of the jazz orchestra. From Omaha, Nebraska, Neal was exposed to many of the bands traveling through the Mid-West and soon began not only excelling on the trumpet, but writing charts in the effortless way that left most in sheer amazement. Under a deadline for the next day, Shelly Manne, recalls how Neal would casually sit around and just hum the individual parts, write them down and in a few hours the band would be playing these incredible cooking charts. His work with Woody Herman led to a long association with Count Basie, which yielded albums such as the Atomic Basie, which many consider to be one of the finest works of the era.

A sought after arranger, he teamed with Frank Sinatra on Sinatra and the Swingin‚ Brass, as well as numerous other artist during the fifties and sixties. His unmistakable sound filtered over to song writing, as his songs Girl Talk and Cute have become standards as well. In 2005, he was included in ASCAP‚s Jazz Wall of Fame. Neal Hefti‚s charm, warmth and wit will be missed by all who knew him.