|Img Capt:||Photo by Brian Ashley White|
|Birth Name:||Bernard Alfred Nitzsche|
|Born:||22 April 1937|
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
|Genre:||Rock, jazz, classical|
|Occupation:||Composer, orchestrator, arranger, session musician, record producer|
|Associated Acts:||Sonny Bono, Phil Spector, The Wrecking Crew, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, The Rolling Stones, Willy DeVille|
Born in Chicago, Illinois and raised on a farm in Newaygo, Michigan, Nitzsche moved to Los Angeles, California in 1955 with ambitions of becoming a jazz saxophonist. He found work copying musical scores, where he met Sonny Bono, with whom he wrote the song "Needles and Pins" for Jackie DeShannon, later covered by Cher, The Searchers, The Ramones and Crack the Sky. His own instrumental composition "The Lonely Surfer" became a minor hit, as did a big-band swing arrangement of Link Wray's "Rumble".
He eventually became arranger and conductor for the influential producer Phil Spector, and orchestrated the ambitious Wall of Sound for the song "River Deep, Mountain High" by Ike and Tina Turner. In later years, an embittered Nitzsche would allege that Spector received disproportionate credit for his contributions to what the former described as an equitable collaboration.
Besides Spector, he worked closely with West Coast session musicians such as Leon Russell, Glen Campbell, Carol Kaye, and Hal Blaine in a group known as The Wrecking Crew. They created backing music for numerous sixties pop recordings by various artists such as The Beach Boys and The Monkees.
While organizing the music for The T.A.M.I. Show television special in 1964, he met The Rolling Stones, and went on to contribute the keyboard textures to their albums The Rolling Stones, Now! (or The Rolling Stones No. 2 in the UK), Out of Our Heads, Aftermath and Between the Buttons as well as the hit singles "Paint It Black" and "Let's Spend the Night Together" and the choral arrangements for "You Can't Always Get What You Want". In 1968, Nitzsche introduced the band to slide guitarist Ry Cooder, a seminal influence on the band's 1969-1973 style.
Some of Nitzsche's most enduring rock productions were conducted in collaboration with Neil Young, beginning with his production and arrangement of Buffalo Springfield's "Expecting To Fly", considered by many critics to be a touchstone of the psychedelic era. In 1968, he produced Young's eponymously titled solo debut with David Briggs. Even as the singer's style veered from the baroque to rootsy hard rock, Young continued to work with Nitzsche on some of his most commercially successful solo recordings, most notably Harvest. Nitzsche played electric piano with Crazy Horse throughout 1970 (a representative performance can be heard on the Live at the Fillmore East album) and went on to produce their sans-Young debut album a year later.
While prolific and hard working throughout the seventies, he began to suffer from depression and problems connected with substance abuse. After castigating Young in a drunken 1974 interview, the two men became estranged for several years and would only collaborate sporadically thereafter; later that year, he was dropped from the Reprise Records roster after recording a scathing song criticizing executive Mo Ostin. This culminated in his arrest for a violent assault on longtime girlfriend Carrie Snodgress, formerly Young's companion, in 1979.
In 1979, he produced Graham Parker's album "Squeezing Out Sparks". Nitzsche produced three Willy DeVille albums beginning in the late 1970s: Cabretta (1977), Return to Magenta (1978), and Coup de Grace (1981). Nitzsche said that DeVille was the best singer he had ever worked with.
In the 1970s he began to concentrate more on film music rather than pop music, and became one of the most prolific film orchestrators in Hollywood in the period, winning an Academy Award for Best Song for co-writing with Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Up Where We Belong" from 1982's An Officer and a Gentleman (Nitzsche had already worked with Sainte-Marie on She Used to Wanna Be a Ballerina in the early 1970s). Nitzsche had also worked on film scores throughout his career, such as his contributions to the Monkees movie Head, the theme music from Village of the Giants (recycling an earlier single, "The Last Race"), and the distinctive soundtracks for Performance, The Exorcist, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Hardcore (1979), The Razor's Edge, and Starman.
His intensive output declined somewhat in the 1990s though there were occasional creative works like the soundtrack of Revenge (1990). In the mid-1990s, a clearly inebriated Nitzsche was seen in an episode of the reality show COPS, being arrested in Hollywood after brandishing a gun at some youths who had stolen his hat. In attempting to explain himself to the arresting officers he is heard exclaiming that he was an Academy Award winner. In 1997, he expressed interest in producing a comeback album for Wray, although this never materialized due to their mutually declining health.
In 1983, he married Canadian/First Nations folk singer/songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie. His first wife was blue-eyed soul singer Gracia Ann May; they divorced in 1974. In the 1990s, he was frequently seen once more in the company of Snodgress.
He died in Hollywood in 2000 of cardiac arrest brought on by a recurring bronchial infection.