×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sid Ramin, Oscar-Winning Composer-Arranger, Dies at 100

The Oscar and Grammy winner penned the "Patty Duke Show" theme and adapted the music of "West Side Story" for the screen.

Composer-arranger Sid Ramin, a longtime associate of Leonard Bernstein who won an Oscar, an Emmy and a Grammy for his work in film, TV and theater, died of natural causes Monday (July 1) at his home in New York City. He was 100.

Ramin won a 1961 Academy Award for adapting the music of “West Side Story,” which he had originally orchestrated for composer Leonard Bernstein on Broadway in 1957 (with fellow arranger Irwin Kostal). He won a 1961 Grammy for the “West Side Story” soundtrack album, and a 1983 Daytime Emmy for music for TV’s “All My Children.”

Ramin’s musical career encompassed every aspect of show business. He started in the early days of live television, arranging for Milton Berle’s “Texaco Star Theatre” from 1948 to 1956. “There was no second take,” Ramin once reminisced about the insane pace of live TV. “What you did was on the air, good or bad.”

He began working on Broadway with Bernstein’s “Wonderful Town” in 1953, although it was a happy coincidence when the composer discovered that Ramin was on the project. The two had been childhood friends in Boston — “he thrived on explaining things to me, and I just devoured every word,” Ramin said. “Lenny instilled a love of music in me.”

Bernstein insisted upon Ramin as orchestrator when he and Stephen Sondheim wrote “West Side Story” in 1957. The always-busy Ramin recruited Kostal, who was then working on TV’s other hit variety show, “Your Show of Shows,” and the two orchestrated both Broadway and film versions of the Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim musical. Bernstein and Ramin remained close friends for the rest of their lives.

“West Side Story” launched a second career for Ramin, doing theater orchestrations for more than a dozen musicals including the Jule Styne-Sondheim show “Gypsy” in 1959, Cy Coleman’s “Wildcat” in 1960, Sondheim’s “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” in 1962 and Bernstein and Alan Jay Lerner’s ill-fated “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” in 1976.

Shuttling back and forth between Broadway and Hollywood, Ramin composed the iconic theme for “The Patty Duke Show” in 1963 and the theme for Peter Falk’s first TV series “The Trials of O’Brien” in 1965. His film scores included “Too Many Thieves” in 1966, the Alex Cord crime drama “Stiletto” in 1969 and a TV-movie remake of “Miracle on 34th Street” in 1973.

Ramin’s primary occupation in the 1960s and ’70s was writing and arranging commercial jingles. His “Come Alive (You’re in the Pepsi Generation)” was immensely popular, and his Diet Pepsi song “Music to Watch Girls By” was even a chart hit, reaching no. 15 in early 1967 in a version by the Bob Crewe Generation. Andy Williams had a top-40 vocal hit with it, and Al Hirt was among the estimated 150 artists who eventually recorded it.

Ramin composed or arranged some of the most famous spots in advertising history from Hertz (“Hertz puts you in the driver’s seat”) to TWA, General Motors and British Airways. For Revlon’s Charlie perfume in the 1970s, he supervised recording sessions by Bobby Short and Mel Torme.

“I get a thrill out of composing my own music, even if it’s only for a 20-second spot,” Ramin told Newsweek in 1967. “I have the freedom to express myself.” He ultimately received 12 Clio Awards, the ad industry’s top honor, for his music.

The often-performed “Symphonic Dances From West Side Story” is one of a number of large-scale works orchestrated by Ramin for symphony orchestras. He also arranged an orchestral suite from Bernstein’s opera “A Quiet Place” and, for the Boston Pops and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, tributes to Bernstein, Jerome Kern, Fred Astaire, Hoagy Carmichael, Victor Young and others.

Ramin recorded five instrumental albums for RCA Victor in the 1950s and ’60s and arranged and conducted albums for numerous artists including Barbra Streisand, Andy Williams, Robert Goulet, the Ames Brothers and others.

He was born Jan. 22, 1919, in Boston, the son of an advertising man who also played the violin. He attended Boston University, the New England Conservatory and Columbia University. It was while serving in the Army during World War II that he began arranging and conducting bands, which led to similar work after the war, notably for the pop group The Three Suns and trumpeter Roy Eldridge.

In 1999, Ramin received the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers’ Irwin Kostal Award (named for his friend and colleague) “for consistent achievement in arranging, orchestration and composition for all media.”

He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Gloria; son Ron, also a composer; daughter-in-law Cathryn, an author; and grandsons Avery and Oliver. A memorial service is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Monday, July 8, at Riverside Memorial Chapel in New York City.

More Music

  • Little Shop of Horrors review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Little Shop of Horrors'

    With its strains of kitschy doo-wop and its sci-fi B-movie inspirations, the quaint 1982 musical “Little Shop of Horrors” hardly seems a thing of modern-day revivalism, even despite its touches of S&M. Yet this year alone, not only is there an Off Broadway production of the blackly comic “Little Shop” featuring Jonathan Groff of Netflix’s [...]

  • BBC's Little Mix Talent Show to

    BBC's Little Mix Talent Show to Be Produced by Management Firm's New Shingle, ModestTV

    The BBC has confirmed its Little Mix talent show, which the pop band’s management firm, Modest!, will produce through a new banner, ModestTV. “Little Mix The Search” will be exec produced by Andrea Hamilton, who has partnered with the management outfit to launch the new operation. Her entertainment show credits include “The Voice” and “Strictly [...]

  • NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 15:

    Midland Turns L.A.'s Dormant Palomino Club Into a Honky-Tonk Brigadoon

    Would it be too much to ask Midland to give up its burgeoning-country-star status and move west to become the humble house band at a newly reopened Palomino club in L.A.? It doesn’t seem a lot to beseech for a good cause, however unlucrative it might be for the group’s fortunes and fame. The famed [...]

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 16:

    Idina Menzel, Bebe Rexha Take the Stage for Justin Tranter's 'Beyond' Benefit Concert

    We’re here, we’re queer and we’re writing your favorite songs was the theme of Beyond, the third annual benefit concert that Justin Tranter and his CAA agent, Jenna Adler, organized to benefit GLAAD at the Sunset Room in Hollywood on Wednesday night (Oct. 16). Beyond a music showcase, its mission is to highlight the annual [...]

  • Taylor SwiftMTV Video Music Awards, Arrivals,

    Vivendi's Third Quarter Results Up Nearly 17%, UMG Still Rising

    Vivendi saw its third quarter revenues increase by 16.7% to €3.97 billion ($4.4 billion) compared with the third quarter of 2018, once again boosted by the growth of Universal Music Group, while Canal Plus Group remained stable. For the first nine months of 2019, Vivendi’s revenues reached €11.3 billion ($12.5 billion), an increase of 14.6% [...]

  • Parliament-Funkadelic and George ClintonIEBA Annual Conference,

    George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Sheila E. to Perform in ‘Grammy Salute’ Airing Friday

    Parliament-Funkadelic stars George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, along with Sheila E. and many others, perform in the “Grammy Salute to Music Legends” airing as part of PBS’ “Great Performances” series Friday night. The show, the fourth annual all-star concert offering a primetime spotlight for the Academy’s 2019 Special Merit Awards recipients, premieres nationwide Friday, Oct. [...]

  • Lola Marsh

    Ping Pong Sets the Beat in Hypnotic, Green Screen-Ambitious Lola Marsh Video (Watch)

    Forrest Gump has nothing on Lola Marsh. The Tel Aviv-based twosome of vocalist Yael Shoshana Cohen and multi-instrumentalist Gil Landau transform into ping pong rivals in the video for “Only for a Moment.” The indie-pop jam combines Cohen’s Lana Del Rey-esque vocals over an upbeat blend of snaps, claps, shakers, and a driving melody courtesy [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content