×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Patrick Williams, Emmy-Winning TV Composer, Dies at 79

Patrick Williams, who was best-known for his Emmy-winning television music but who was also a renowned and Grammy-winning big-band jazz leader and arranger, died Wednesday morning of complications from cancer at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 79.

Williams was among the most versatile composers of his generation, earning an Oscar nomination (for adapting opera in “Breaking Away,” 1979), four Emmys (for dramatic music including “Lou Grant,” 1980) and two Grammys (for arrangements including his classic jazz album “Threshold,” 1974) during more than 50 years of music-making in New York and Los Angeles.

In the middle of his most prolific period, scoring music for TV including “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Bob Newhart Show” and “The Streets of San Francisco,” he was also nominated for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in music for his groundbreaking “An American Concerto” (1976) for jazz quartet and symphony orchestra.

He scored nearly 50 films, often memorable scores for movies that were not big hits, including “Casey’s Shadow,” “The Cheap Detective” and “Cuba” in the 1970s; “Used Cars,” “Swing Shift” and “All of Me” in the 1980s; “Cry-Baby,” “The Grass Harp” and “That Old Feeling” in the 1990s.

But his primary occupation was music for television, which ultimately earned him 22 Emmy nominations for such memorable 1970s and ’80s series as “The Streets of San Francisco,” “Columbo,” “Lou Grant,” and “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd,” and such notable 1990s telefilms as “Decoration Day,” “Geronimo” and “Kingfish: A Story of Huey P. Long.” His miniseries, all in the ’90s and early ’00s, included “Jewels,” “Jesus,” “Blonde” and “Hercules.”

Williams had the most fun in the recording studio, working with top jazz musicians on both coasts to record contemporary big-band albums. His 19 Grammy nominations were mostly for his jazz compositions and arrangements, starting with the landmark “Threshold” LP and later including albums from his own 1980s Soundwings label featuring saxophonist Tom Scott, trombonist Bill Watrous, and his own big band.

“Pat’s charts have a lyrical quality that makes them fun to play, and they swing like hell,” Scott said in 2010. “Whenever I get a call, ‘Pat Williams needs you,’ I would do anything to be there, whether it was a record or a movie or a TV show.” Added flutist Hubert Laws: “I’ve always had the greatest respect for Pat and his writing ability, with the melody and harmony and rhythm. The spontaneity of it all really intrigues me.” Respected jazz writer Gene Lees once said: “Pat’s writing is breathtaking. He’s just one of the finest arrangers and composers who ever put pen to paper.”

Williams arranged and conducted Frank Sinatra’s final studio recordings, “Duets” I and II in the early 1990s, and later paid tribute to the singer and his favorite tunes in his own 1998 album “Sinatraland.” Williams arranged for a wide variety of other singers including Barbra Streisand, Jack Jones, Natalie Cole, Neil Diamond, Gloria Estefan, Michael Feinstein, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Patti Austin, Barry Manilow, Monica Mancini and Bette Midler.

He was also highly active in music education, lecturing around the country and serving for five years (2001 to 2006) as artistic director of the Henry Mancini Institute, which trains young musicians for careers in music. Several of Williams’ later orchestral works (including “Adagio for Orchestra,” “Memento Mei” and “August”) debuted during the institute’s annual summer sessions in Los Angeles.

Williams was born April 23, 1939 in Bonne Terre, Mo., graduated from Duke University in 1961 and did post-graduate work at Columbia University. He worked as a composer, arranger and producer in New York before moving to Los Angeles in 1968 to seek work in the film and TV arena.

During the 1970s and ’80s, Williams scored hundreds of episodes of network TV series, variously lending a warm, comic, jazzy or dramatic sound as needed. In his own music for records and the concert hall, he strove to combine jazz and classical elements in a smoother, more organic way than had been previously achieved by most composers.

Williams wrote an estimated 30 concert works including “Gulliver” with narration written by Larry Gelbart, and a ballet, “Ziji”; and jazz concertos for trombonist Bill Watrous, clarinetist Eddie Daniels, saxophonist Tom Scott; and pianist Dave Grusin and saxophonist Gerry Mulligan.

He received an honorary doctorate in fine arts from his alma mater, Duke University, in 2001. His last big-band album, 2015’s “Home Suite Home,” featured long pieces dedicated to his wife Catherine and his three children, Elizabeth, Greer and Patrick, all of whom survive him.

Survivors also include five grandchildren, a brother and a sister. A memorial celebration will be scheduled for later in the year.

 

 

 

 

More TV

  • A.P. BIO -- "Melvin" Episode 208

    'AP Bio' Canceled After Two Seasons at NBC

    “AP Bio” has been canceled at NBC. Series creator Mike O’Brien shared the news with fans on Twitter, writing that “This has been my favorite project of my life.” In the single-camera comedy, Glenn Howerton portrayed a disgraced Harvard philosophy scholar who lost out on his dream job and was forced to return to Toledo, [...]

  • James Holzhauer $2 million

    'Jeopardy!' Champion James Holzhauer Hits $2 Million Winnings Milestone

    This current “Jeopardy!” player has just won over $2 million on the popular game show. Who is James Holzhauer? The 34 year old professional sports gambler from Las Vegas has hit a “Jeopardy!” milestone by becoming only the second person in the show’s history to win over $2 million in regular season play. Holzhauer won [...]

  • Kanye West Shares a Memory of

    Kanye West Shares a Touching Memory of His Mother in Letterman Interview

    In a preview of David Letterman’s interview with Kanye West, which begins streaming next Friday, May 31, the musician’s wife Kim Kardashian West, tweeted a clip of him sharing a touching memory of his mother, Donda, who died in 2007 after a surgical procedure. While his wife looks on smiling, West answers Letterman’s question about [...]

  • CNN Lays Off Some Health Journalism

    CNN Lays Off Some Health Journalism Staffers

    CNN has laid off a handful of staffers from its health-journalism unit after deciding to place its health, climate and Southeastern newsgathering operations under a single aegis. ” As part of the normal course of business, our newsgathering team made a small restructure earlier this week that ultimately impacts 6-7 employees within CNN’s Health Unit,” [...]

  • Henry Ian Cusick

    'Lost' Star Henry Ian Cusick Signs With Buchwald (EXCLUSIVE)

    Henry Ian Cusick, best known for playing Desmond on the hit ABC series “Lost,” is signing with talent agency Buchwald for representation. Cusick also starred in the CW sci-fi/drama “The 100” and was most recently seen in the Fox series “The Passage.” His other notable television credits include “Scandal,” “24,” “Fringe,” “The Mentalist,” “Body of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content