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Saturday, May 31, 2008

42 Views of Harlem - Earle Hagen 1919-2008

Composer Earle Hagen passed away this past Monday at age 88. As with our comment about photographer David Gahr, who also passed away this week, you're almost certainly familiar with Hagen's work if not his name: Among other pieces, Hagen composed the themes for That Girl; The Dick Van Dyke Show; I Spy; and The Mod Squad. His best-known TV piece is undoubtedly the theme from The Andy Griffith Show. From his obituary in the LA Times:

In his autobiography, "Memoirs of a Famous Composer -- Nobody Ever Heard Of," Hagen wrote that while sitting at home "wracking my brain for an idea for a theme for the Griffith show, it finally occurred to me that it should be something simple, something you could whistle. With that in mind, it took me about an hour to write the Andy Griffith theme."
Hagen was also the composer of the moody and noirish Harlem Nocturne, a jazz and big band staple that has been covered at least 500 times, according to WFMU's Beware of the Blog. WFMU offers 42 versions of Hagen's classic as a tribute, including interpretations by TTRH favorites Johnny Otis; Illinois Jacquet; Louis Prima; and Boots Randolph. Recommended is Mel Torme's silky take on the seldom-heard lyrics.

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