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Space Age Pop Songs

The Mancini Number


Along with Elmer Bernstein and Nelson Riddle, Henry Mancini brought a new approach strongly influenced by jazz to television and film scoring. Unlike Bernstein and Riddle, though, he also had a knack for writing songs that stood out from the scores. Mancini's hit songs were not just popular among exotica fans: they were popular, period, and covered by exotica artists along with many other mainstream performers. Not that Mancini wasted any energy writing for the sake of writing: all his hits were directly associated with some television or film show.

"Peter Gunn"

Theme from the TV detective show. One of the ur rhythms of our times.

Recordings of "Peter Gunn"

"Moon River"

"Moon River" was certainly Mancini's best song, in no small part because he was working with one of the best lyricists there was, Johnny Mercer. Audrey Hepburn sang it in the movie, "Breakfast at Tiffany's," in a rare exception to the standard Hollywood procedure of having Marnie Nixon or another singer dubbed in for her. The song was meant to give some insight into Holly Golightly's bittersweet memories of the backwoods life she had escaped from--although Audrey Hepburn never looked like she spent much time in the backwoods, unless the backwoods of the south of France count. Oscar winner for Best Song in 1961.

"Days of Wine and Roses"

Another Mancini/Mercer collaboration and another Oscar winner, giving the team back-to-back Oscars two years in a row.

"Baby Elephant Walk"

Space-age pop bands love a good novelty number. This instrumental from the movie "Hatari!" became one of the best-selling and most-performed novelty numbers of the 1960s.


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