Neal Hefti, a top jazz arranger of the 1940s and ’50s and Grammy-winning composer of the “Batman” and “Odd Couple” themes, died Saturday at his home in Toluca Lake, Calif. He was 85.
Hefti composed more than a dozen feature film scores in the 1960s and ’70s, including Neil Simon’s “Odd Couple,” “Barefoot in the Park” and “Last of the Red Hot Lovers,” and such other comedies as “Sex and the Single Girl,” “How to Murder Your Wife,” “Boeing Boeing” and “A New Leaf.”
His dramatic scores included “Harlow” (which included Hefti’s hit “Girl Talk”), the Western “Duel at Diablo,” and the private-eye movie “P.J.”
Hefti’s half-serious, half-silly theme for the Adam West comic-book series “Batman” resulted in three 1966 Grammy nominations — winning for Best Instrumental Composition — and a hit single. He later wrote two LPs of “Batman” inspired instrumentals.
He received two 1968 Grammy noms for his “Odd Couple” movie soundtrack, which he later adapted for the 1970s TV series, and an Emmy nomination for conducting a Fred Astaire special in 1968.
Hefti was born in Hastings, Neb., and played the trumpet in high school. He went on to play with the Charlie Barnet and Horace Heidt bands but made his greatest impression with Woody Herman’s mid-1940s band, not only as trumpeter but also as composer and arranger.
He contributed dozens of tunes and arrangements to the Count Basie band in the 1950s and early 1960s, including such jazz standards as “Cute” and “Li’l Darling.” He also produced and arranged two albums for Frank Sinatra.
Hefti once estimated that he was involved — either as artist, composer or producer — in more than 300 albums. He retired in 1976.
His wife, ex-Woody Herman vocalist Frances Wayne, died in 1978. Survivors include a son, brother, sister and three grandchildren.
Donations may be made to Boys Town, P.O. Box 145-Memorial, Boys Town, NE, 68010, or the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22718, Oklahoma City, OK, 73123.