Dick Halligan, who won two Grammys for his early work with the group Blood, Sweat and Tears and later turned to film and television work, died Jan. 18 in Rome, Italy at age 78. The family cited natural causes.
Halligan was a member of Blood, Sweat and Tears for the horn-driven rock band’s first four albums. He played trombone on the group’s heralded 1968 debut, “Child is Father to the Man,” then moved over to keyboards and flute for their second album, the self-titled, “Blood, Sweat and Tears,” after co-founder and keyboardist Al Kooper left the band. With David Clayton-Thomas coming in as the grittier new lead vocalist, the group had a major commercial breakthrough and went from the counterculture cult popularity of the debut to winning the 1969 album of the year Grammy for the sophomore release. Halligan remained on board for two more albums before taking his leave in 1971.
It was the breakout second album that earned Halligan both his Grammys and five of his seven nominations. Besides the big win for the “Blood, Sweat and Tears” album, Halligan also picked up a win for best contemporary instrumental performance for the album’s “Variations on a Theme by Eric Satie.” He and the band also picked up three other nominations at the time, including a nod for record of the year for the No. 1 single “Spinning Wheel.” There were additional singular nominations for the 1968 and 1970 honors.
His first film scoring credit was the Barbra Streisand film “The Owl and the Pussycat,” released in 1970, when he was still a member of Blood, Sweat and Tears. Some episodic work on shows like “The Bionic Woman” and “Holmes and Yoyo” followed, and by the late 1970s, Halligan had become active in film scoring, doing music for features including “Go Tell the Spartans” (1978), “A Force of One” (1979), “The Octagon” (1980), “Cheaper to Keep Her” (1981) and “Fear City” (1984).
Although his film credits ended after 1984, his work was heard on the big screen recently in “Licorice Pizza,” which had on its soundtrack a song he co-wrote with Clayton-Thomas, “”Lisa, Listen to Me,” that was released as a single from the fourth Blood, Sweat and Tears album.
After getting out of the film/TV world, Halligan wrote compositions for jazz and orchestral ensembles, which were recorded or performed by the Formosa Chamber Players, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Roy Poper and others.
Halligan grew up in Glens Falls, NY, intently focused on the music of Stan Kenton, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and other big-band leaders. He earned an MA in music theory and composition from the Manhattan School of Music. It was a jazz saxophonist friend, Fred Lipsius, who asked him to join Blood, Sweat and Tears, an offer Halligan is said to have originally rebuffed before learning that it meant a much-wanted ticket to California.
In his later years, Halligan wrote a book, “Musical Being,” which he adapted into a touring one-man show of the same name.
The musician is survived by his daughter, songwriter-vocalist Shana, his son-in-law, Eric Kaufman, his grandson, Otis, and his stepson, Buddy.