Record producer, film composer and performer Jack Nitzsche died Friday at Queen of Angels hospital in Hollywood of cardiac arrest, brought on by a recurring bronchial infection. He was 63.
Nitzsche won the 1983 original song Oscar for co-writing “Up Where We Belong” for “An Officer and a Gentleman.” His score for 1975’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” also brought him an Oscar nomination. In 1991, Nitzsche paired Miles Davis and John Lee Hooker to perform his acclaimed score for Dennis Hopper’s pic “The Hot Spot.”
In his 35-year career, Nitzsche worked with the likes of Elvis Presley, Captain Beefheart, Marianne Faithfull, the Monkees and Doris Day, but his best-known work was with the legendary producer Phil Spector, the Rolling Stones and Neil Young.
As an arranger, Nitzsche began working with Spector in 1962 with the Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel.” Their association lasted up through Spector’s final “wall of sound” production, Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” in 1966.
Rocked with Stones
His association with the Rolling Stones started in 1964 and throughout the 1960s he contributed keyboard parts to such classics as “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadows?” “Play With Fire” and “Paint It Black.” He also wrote the classic choral arrangements for “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
With Young, Nitzsche arranged strings for “A Man Needs a Maid” and was a member of his backing band, the Stray Gators, for 1972’s “Harvest.” He arranged “Such a Woman” for Young’s 1992 “Harvest Moon” album. Their association began in 1967 when Nitzsche arranged “Expecting to Fly” for Young’s former band, the Buffalo Springfield.
Nitzsche had one solo hit, “The Lonely Surfer,” an instrumental track that hit the top 40 in 1963.
Born Bernard Alfred “Jack” Nitzsche on April 22, 1937, in Chicago, he was reared on a farm outside of Newaygo, Mich. At age 18, he moved to Los Angeles to become a jazz saxophonist, but quit after getting a job at Specialty Records as a copyist.
His motion picture work began with largely overseeing the musical end of 1964’s “The TAMI Show,” then scoring the 1965 no-budgeter “Village of the Giants.” In 1970 he scored “Performance.” Other credits include “The Exorcist,” “Stand by Me,” “The Indian Runner,” “The Crossing Guard,” “Blue Collar” and “Hardcore.”
Nitzsche, an avid record collector up until his death, was also notorious for his drug usage and run-ins with the law, one of which even landed on the TV show “Cops.”
Nitzsche had one son, Jack Jr., from his first marriage, to aspiring singer Gracia Ann May. He was later married to Buffy Sainte-Marie, with whom he co-wrote “Up Where We Belong.”
Nitzsche’s last studio work (as yet unreleased) was with Louisiana rocker C.C. Adcock.
He is survived by his son.