Robert Drasnin, composer of the film “The Kremlin Letter” and many classic TV shows including “Twilight Zone,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and “Mission: Impossible,” died Wednesday, May 13, at Providence Tarzana Medical Center. He was 87. Death was due to complications from a recent fall.
Drasnin, whose credits also include scores for “The Wild Wild West,” “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” “Lost in Space,” “Police Story” and “Hawaii Five-0,” served as director of music for CBS Television from 1977 to 1991.
Drasnin’s scoring career began in the ’50s, composing for live television dramas including “Climax,” “Studio One,” “Ford Startime” and “Playhouse 90.”
He scored a handful of feature films including John Huston’s “The Kremlin Letter” and the early Jack Nicholson Western “Ride in the Whirlwind,” but he was most active in TV. His other series assignments included “The Time Tunnel,” “I Spy,” “Daniel Boone,” “Mannix,” “Cannon,” “The Rookies” and “Barnaby Jones.”
He also composed music for more than a dozen TV movies, including the Lee J. Cobb version of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” and such early ABC telefilms as “Daughter of the Mind,” “The Old Man Who Cried Wolf,” “Crowhaven Farm” and “Dr. Cook’s Garden.”
While head of CBS’ music department in the 1980s, he worked with the Grateful Dead on music for the revived “Twilight Zone” series, along with scoring several episodes himself.
His 1959 exotica album “Voodoo” became a cult favorite and inspired a 2007 sequel, “Voodoo II.” The popularity of those albums led him to return to live performance in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
He was born in Charleston, W.Va., but had lived in Southern California since 1938. He majored in music at UCLA, receiving his B.A. in 1949, and was soon on the road playing saxophone, clarinet and flute for bandleaders Skinnay Ennis and Les Brown.
After Army service during the Korean War, he returned to UCLA as a graduate student and became associate conductor of the UCLA Symphony. During the 1950s he also played with the Tommy Dorsey orchestra and Red Norvo’s quintet.
Drasnin was also active as an educator, teaching film scoring, orchestration and music theory at Cal State Northridge from 1976 to 1991 and in the film scoring program of UCLA Extension from 1993 through 2014. He was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
Survivors include his wife Marlene; a brother, documentary producer Irv Drasnin; three children; and three grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at a later date.
(photo courtesy of Jon Burlingame)