Francis Lai 1932-2018
Nov. 8, 2018
Remembering Francis Lai, Beloved French Film Composer
By Randall D. Larson/Soundtrax
Francis Lai, whose beautifully melodic pop- and orchestral-driven scores for A MAN AND A WOMAN, LOVE STORY, and so many more have brought pleasure to so many, has died in France on November 7th. He was 86.
Lai, a self-taught musician, was born in Nice in 1932. Lai “played accordion and piano, and while he was still in his 20s, settled in Paris’s Montmartre district,” wrote Jon Burlingame in a remembrance of the composer for Variety. “He soon became accompanist to the legendary chanteuse Édith Piaf. He began writing songs for her as well, and his total song output is now said to exceed 600.”
“The first feature he scored was Claude. Lelouch’s A MAN AND A WOMAN, which won the 1967 Academy Award for best foreign-language film,” read an unsigned Associated Press posting in the New York Times. “Mr. Lai’s distinctive title song, featuring wordless vocals by a male-female duo, was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.” Lai went on to score many more films for Lelouch, including LIVE FOR LIFE, LOVE IS A FUNNY THING, and others.
He was especially known for his elegant, harmonious, and infectious pop melodies, which graced many romantic films, but he scored films in a variety of genres, including Michael Winner’s WW2 comedy HANNIBAL BROOKS (1969), René Clément’s 1977 mystery thriller RIDER ON THE RAIN (Le Passager de la pluie) starring Charles Bronson, the comedy Western with Claudia Cardinale and Bridget Bardot THE LEGEND OF FRENCHIE KING (1971; Les Pétroleuses), Bryan Forbes’ INTERNATIONAL VELVET (1978), the 1987 historical romance DARK EYES, starring, Marcello Mastroianni, and many more.
Lai wrote few scores in the fantasy genre include the French version of Tom Thumb, LE PETIT POUCET (1972), among a handful of others.
“It is with great sadness that I learn of the death of Francis Lai, this great composer from Nice,” wrote the mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, quoted in the French website The World (Lemonde.fr). Estrosi added that the city of Nice would pay tribute to him: “I will soon propose to his family to give his name to an emblematic place of our city.”
Here are some examples of some of Lai’s memorable scores, from YouTube: