Joe Harnell


Grammy-winning composer, arranger and conductor Joe Harnell died of heart failure July 14 in Sherman Oaks, Calif. He was 80.

Harnell won a 1962 Grammy Award for his recording of “Fly Me to the Moon,” and received three Emmy nominations for his own music: for a 1981 episode of “The Incredible Hulk,” the 1983 sci-fi miniseries “V” and in 1985 for the daytime soap “Santa Barbara.”

He also scored such weekly series as “The Bionic Woman” and “Alien Nation” and composed several TV movie scores in the 1980s including “Senior Trip,” “The Liberators” and “Shadow Chasers.” Prior to coming to California, he served as musical director on daytime’s “Mike Douglas Show” from 1967 to 1973.

Harnell was born in the Bronx, began studying piano at the age of 6 and arranging while in high school. During World War II, he toured with the Glenn Miller Air Force Band and, while still in the service, studied with such musical notables as Nadia Boulanger in Paris and William Walton in London. After the war, he continued his studies in the U.S. with Aaron Copland.

During the 1950s and 60s, he worked as a pianist, arranger and musical director for singers including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Peggy Lee, Pearl Bailey, Marlene Dietrich, Shirley MacLaine and Beverly Sills. His “Fly Me to the Moon” album was one of 18 he recorded as a pianist and orchestra leader.

Harnell also scored dozens of commercials, most recently in Japan, the music from several of which were recorded by artists including Mel Torme, Crystal Gayle and Anita O’Day. He also composed the logo music that preceded every United Artists film from 1981 to 1987.

In recent years, Harnell composed the scores for documentaries on Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele; served as music director for a national tour celebrating the music of Cole Porter; and made numerous public appearances as a solo pianist.

He published his autobiography, “Counterpoint: The Journey of a Music Man,” in 2001. Until recently, he continued to lecture and mentor young composers as part of the faculty of the USC Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television Program.

Survivors include his wife Alice; three sons, two stepsons, a brother and three grandchildren.

Donations may be made to the USC Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles.

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