Friday, October 17, 2008

In the obits

You may not know the name Neal Hefti, but you know his work. I shall demonstrate with a tune:

nananananananana nananananananana BATMAN!

Oh,THAT Neal Hefti, you say. Yes, indeed. He died last Saturday at the age of 85.

And the thing is, he was a serious musician, a composer and arranger who worked with the Count Basie orchestra among others. (He also wrote the rather catchy Odd Couples theme song.)

But "Oddly enough, his most famous tune is among his least musically interesting, even if it was somehow brilliantly apt: the jauntily arch and repetitive theme for the television series “Batman.” Mr. Hefti said that the show was so campy it took him weeks to come up with a suitable melody. It won him his only Grammy."

I like the fact that writing the Batman theme was hard to do. There's something very satisfying in that. And that the hard work was suitably awarded with a Grammy. Sometimes it's not about being profound, but being the thing most suited to the need.

“He told me he tore up more paper on ‘Batman’ than on any other work he ever did,” Paul Hefti [his son] said. “He had to find something that worked with the lowest common denominator, so it would appeal to kids, yet wouldn’t sound stupid."

Sounds like writing a sermon to me. Sometimes the most beautiful, most noble sermon isn't what's required. Just something catchy that people can take with them. Perhaps I should tape "BATMAN!" over my desk as a reminder.

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