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Space Age Music Maker

Marco Rizo


  • Born 1920, Santiago, Cuba
  • Died 8 September 1998, New York City, New York

Best known for his theme for "I Love Lucy," Marco Rizo actually preferred the more serious side of Latin music. Rizo's father was the principal flutist with the symphony orchestra in their home town of Santiago, and he encouraged his son to study music at an early age. Rizo entered the National Conservatory of Music in Havana in 1932, and studied there for the next six years. By his mid-teens, Rizo was considered among the finest young pianists in Cuba, and in 1939, he played a duo concert with the legendary Cuban composer, Ernesto Lecuona. Within a year, he won a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music in New York City.

After graduating from Juilliard, Rizo spent several years in the U.S. Army as part of the Special Services Division, playing the piano. Upon discharge, he began working with singer and bandleader Desi Arnaz, who was enjoying popular success with hits such as "Babalu". He remained with Arnaz for the rest of the decade, and when CBS decided to take a chance on a television comedy series starring Desi and his wife, Lucille Ball, he went along as musical director, penning the memorable Latin-flavored theme that accompanied the opening and closing credits. Rizo stayed with CBS after leaving the show in 1959, working primarily as an orchestrator and arranger. Most of Rizo's own recordings date from this period, primarily on the New York-based Latin music label, Tico.

Throughout his years with Desi Arnaz, Rizo never lost his first love for classical music, and the success of "I Love Lucy" allowed him to devote more energy and time to more serious compositions. He performed occasionally as a pianist, and he would eventually win the Silver Medal of the French Academy of the Arts, Sciences and Letters in 1989 for his work.


Recordings

  • The Latin Touch, Tico LP-1046
  • Morning Melody, Tico LP-1052
  • Leroy Anderson in South America, Tico LP-1061
  • Piano and Percussion, Tico LP-1076
  • Bossa Nova, Somerset SF-18800


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