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ON THE LOSS OF JERRY GOLDSMITH

LETTERS FROM OUR READERS


FROM: "Deborah Young-Groves"

I cannot recall a time in my life when I was NOT aware of Jerry Goldsmith. It has been so from his earliest works: from the soaring poignant DR. KILDARE to the elegant FIRST KNIGHT (and an ocean of sound in between).
 
His scores were always provocative. He was reminiscent of Joseph Haydn, (who would insert a sudden loud chord in order to keep his guests from sleeping after dinner when they should have been paying attention!) Mr. Goldsmith would throw in refreshing rhythm changes which kept his music eternally fresh and challenging.
 
I know THE SAND PEBBLES was one of his personal favourites. After falling in love with that album (hey it was 1966!) and so many others... THE CHAIRMAN... IN HARM'S WAY... A PATCH OF BLUE... JUSTINE... it got so that I would attend a movie motivated solely by his name. Didn't care WHAT the subject matter was... if Jerry did the music, it was good enough for me.
 
I was privileged to be one of the guests of MR. EARLE HAGEN who celebrated his 85th birthday at the Hollywood Bowl's Celebration of Television Themes on July 9th. The 93 piece orchestra also played a medley of Mr. Goldsmith's television scores. Alas, he was too ill to attend, but the conductor telephoned him, and kept the phone line open so he could hear the arrangement. It was a lovely moment, but not until now did I realize how bittersweet.
 
You are immortal, Jerry Goldsmith.


FROM: "Keith Savage"

With the recent tragic passing of Jerry Goldsmith, I felt I, like many I'm sure, needed to say something about the composer whose music has meant more to me than any composer in any medium. I am an independent filmmaker and I find the listening of film scores essential to my writing process. I don't know if other people create in this way, but before I start to write, I fill my CD changer with soundtracks that are appropriate to the mood I want to convey in my script. Jerry Goldsmith, being my favorite composer, greatly dominated my musical selections. Just by listening to the pace, mood, and tempo of the music I would get into a sort of trance which would allow me to write. It would get to the point where I don't feel like I'm writing any more. It's as if I am improvising with the composer in a Jazz session and we are collaborating on the script. I can't say how many times I have actually conceived the ending of a script just by hearing a piece of music. No composer has had a greater impact on my writing than Jerry Goldsmith. His music is not just a creative outlet for me though. His music has always been an endless joy to listen to, and will continue to be. Now I never met Jerry Goldsmith, nor would he ever have been aware of my existence, so it feels strange to have strong feelings about the loss of someone I have never met. He has always been a sort of Santa Claus to me. I would see the odd picture of him, but he would leave the odd gift for me at the music store. There would be a great deal of excitement over what would Jerry do every year. What ideas would his music inspire? But now that he is gone the world of film music will never be the same. It's a selfish statement, as only the family and friends of Jerry Goldsmith can truly appreciate the loss. We are only admirers of a very creative man, and this man was greater than his music. I can only hope that the love and praise given by fans will help the Goldsmith family through this terrible time. This man has meant so much to so many people who never met him. I feel like I have lost a close, personal collaborator, who gave more to fans of his music than anyone should be expected to. His volume of work is larger and more diverse than only a handful of composers. He and his music will live on as long as we keep listening to it. Jerry, wherever you are, I can't thank you enough. Rest in peace. You will never be forgotten.


FROM: "Jeff Heise"

SUBJECT: Death of a giant
 
I just received word of the death of Jerry Goldsmith. Even though he hadn't been as prolific in the last year or so, it is nice to know that his last score (LOONEY TUNES-BACK IN ACTION) was a terrific one and a sweet finale.
 
I had the honor of attending a concert of the maestro at Descanso Gardens here in LA 7 years ago, and to see that magnificent white ponytail moving energetically to his conducting was quite a treat.
 
I think only John Williams passing would shock and sadden me more, and I hope that is not for a while. I will now go home and play "Ilia's Theme" from STAR TREK-THE MOTION PICTURE and get a little misty-eyed. Then, I'll probably blast the opening of THE BLUE MAX just blow the dust off my speaker cones and send the music Jerry's way.
 
God bless you, maestro!!


FROM: "James L. Perry"

SUBJECT: Losing Greatness - Jerry Goldsmith
 
Jerry Goldsmith was not my favorite film composer, but he is certainly a close second. His style always struck me with a clarity unmatched by other men. His cues were neither broad nor the cookie-cutter types. They ever and always belonged to the scene for which they were originally intended. The 13th Warrior might have sounded similar to The Mummy, but they were not interchangeable.

There has never been any doubt that Jerry Goldsmith knew how to score a scene, regardless of its genre or mood. He was truly an example that anything could be done, and with excellence. It will be a pleasure every year to pay tribute to a great composer and great man when we listen to the Theme for Oscar at the Academy Awards.

I had the chance to see Williams in concert, and I hoped one day to do the same for Jerry Goldsmith. It was with great sadness that I learned of his death Thursday afternoon, and another chance to see greatness has passed. It came as a shock, no doubt to many of us, and I nearly wept. May God have infinite mercy reserved for him.


FROM: "Amer Zahid"
 
In my young days of film music discovery, courtesy the music of John Williams, I had decided that only full fledged 100 piece orchestral scores were the best. But upon stumbling the works of Jerry Goldsmith who not only used 100 piece orchestras but electronics and otherworldy sound effects (all created acoustically)- my perception for film music took a whole new turn and enhanced my continued admiration for maestro Goldsmith. In the early salad days of Film Score Monthly magazine, I remember discussing Mr. Goldsmith's output with Lukas Kendall.. We were always struck but the incredible compositional range of his works, his vernacular chameleonlike skills to camouflage with every new film project and yet able to produce a whole new original work which always left us in sheer awe and admiration.

Jerry Goldsmith was the most prolific and most versatile composer ever to grace the silver screen. His output over the last four decades has been phenomenal. Goldsmith had thrilled us, scared us, moved us and given a whole new meaning to the phrase "music of the spheres" with his phenomenal music for the STAR TREK movie franchise. Amongst his peers like Bernard Herrmann, Alex North, John Williams and John Barry- Goldsmith was a TITAN and he leaves behind a sterling legacy. A magnificent life fulfilled. Farewell, maestro!


FROM: "Scott McIntyre"

He didn't know me, but he made an impact on my life. He'd probably think I was some "soundtrack nut" who was "collecting his albums like bottlecaps". While, yes, I am the former, I was particular about the latter. Why? Why not just pick up every score Jerry had ever done? Because he didn't want me to. I love his work and will continue to seek out scores of his undiscovered by me, but I will not buy blindly simply because it's by "Jerry Goldsmith". He would have hated that.

Was there work of his I didn't not appreciate or enjoy? Of course there was, but his influence on the industry, on me personally was immense. If any one composer could get me heart pumping, my blood going and put a silly grin on my face, it was Jerry. And thanks to FSM and Varese Sarabande, I've been able to savor his early work, like Studs Lonigan, The Sand Pebbles, Patton, 100 Rifles, Rio Conchos and so on.

I'm sure you'll get hundreds of tributes from fans and I feel silly, rambling and meandering about a man I never met, who never knew me. I should shrug it off like so many other celebrity deaths, but I can't. I feel like I lost something intangible, something which inspired my own creativity. It's a sad day for many people, me least of all.

Somewhere, in that great recording studio in the sky, Jerry is about to conduct God's soundtrack. And God's standing there impressed, wishing he could sport a ponytail as cool as that at his age.

His body of work remains, hopefully available for generations to enjoy. But remember, buy judiciously. Don't collect 'em like bottlecaps.

Jerry wouldn't like that.


FROM: "Louis Banlaki"

SUBJECT: Farewell to the Master
 
Like everyone else, I was terribly saddened to hear the news on the passing of Jerry Goldsmith. As everyone knows from my past letters to FSM he was my all time favorite, to me, the best that ever was at what he did.

Whenever I saw his name connected with a film it always meant quality, distinction, and so many other superlative adjectives that escape me at the moment. His music was always exciting and as we all know, innovative. His driving action writing is without equal and he reigned supreme. He was one of the greatest composers of the 20th century and his death has left such a huge void in the world of music that it can never be filled.

Even though I have well over a hundred of his scores in my collection I hunger for more. The man has written so much great music in his life, enough perhaps for two lifetimes. Now would be a good time to release the CD of his rejected score from TIMELINE.

I don't know what else to write because I have too many thoughts running in my mind about him but at least I had the honor to meet him when he came here to Baltimore back in 1990 to do a concert. I always called him Mr. Goldsmith, never Jerry like so many fans did because that seemed disrespectful to me. I didn't know him to call him by his first name. But my heartfelt sorrow goes out to his friends and family.

I will miss his great talent. He was as big a genius in film music as Bernard Herrmann was. Maybe even bigger. There will NEVER be another like him, God bless him.

Thank you, Mr. Goldsmith, for your genius, your innate dramatic sense and for your great music. I feel blessed to have been enraptured by the beauty and power of your music. Your music means so much to me. Thank you.


FROM: "Gary Kester"

I have no doubt whatsoever that the FSM mailbag will be inundated with letters about the tragic passing of Jerry Goldsmith, which was actually less than twenty-four hours ago as I write this. His loss to film music, it is suffice to say, is vast, and only matched by the legacy he leaves for filmmakers, composers and audiences old and new who were touched, influenced and occasionally completely overwhelmed by his unique imagination and artistry.

Given the notorious, shall we say, zeal of some sections of the Goldsmith fan-base, reaction to the news was typically swift - a check on some online forums saw a mix of the respectful, the measured, the reflective and, inevitably (and sadly mostly), the hyperbolic shriekings of the hardcore maniacs Mr. Goldsmith himself never had much time for (he termed them "bottle cap collectors" - the type of people who willingly pay vast sums for a CD-R of an unreleased score masquerading as a "limited archival pressing", which is merely eBay speak for "bootleg", and who measure the "greatness" of a score by how few other people have a copy).

Comments I have read today ranged from people expressing disbelief that Goldsmith actually COULD die, despite his well-publicized long illness and the fact that, for all his talent, he was merely a mortal, to several people hinting THEIR lives were now just about over. There was even one truly monumental idiot who compared the impact his death to September 11th 2001. Quick, someone invent a moron-filter for web-browsers! And then there were the listsÍ Lots of lists. "My favourite JERRY scores are..."; "I can never again listen to..."; "The price of this will rocket now..."; and, perhaps worst of all for me, "If you're a REAL JERRY fan then you'll listen to THESE tonight"...

I mean hey, if it helps the grieving process then by all means list your top ten Goldsmith scores on a posting, though personally I'll keep mine to myself for two reasons - firstly, they tend to flux with my fickle, ever-changing moods, and secondly, because I suspect nobody else would really give a rat's ass. And if you want to suggest a playlist to commemorate his passing, again fine. However, don't tell ME that I'm being disrespectful if I don't play it! Personally I've been at work all day, I've got red wine, major girlfriend cuddles and the last episode of 24 to look forward to tonight, and there's no way right now that I'm going to tell a six-year old girl that she has to turn off her Piglet's Big Movie DVD and go to bed early because nasty Gary is feeling grumpy wants to play his boring old music.

Don't get me wrong, the passing of Jerry Goldsmith has made me feel profoundly sad, but have a little perspective people. I really do think of myself as a REAL Goldsmith fan. I enjoy his music, I admire his creativity, and I even get to express my knowledge and views by writing the odd set of liner notes about his work for Prometheus Records. But it is not the be-all and end-all of my life. Furthermore, and it may shock some people to know this, but it wasn't the be-all and end all of HIS either. The man had a family, he enjoyed his life. I had the chance to have a long conversation with him once, and he really didn't like to talk music. He preferred to just do it. He seemed more keen to chat about art and literature, much as anyone else hates to talk shop all the time. God, he must have found the constant bombardment of "why does this cue run 57 seconds on the album but 65 seconds in the film" inane and repetitive. And people wonder why he sometimes seemed a little tetchy with fans... Absolutely, he took his work seriously, and he certainly knew the fear of the blank page and the thrill of the emerging idea, but after most scores were completed he was happy to forget them and move onto the next.

And, lest we forget, he was not the only talented composer to ever live and work this way. Did Alex North, Franz Waxman or Miklos Rozsa get all this hoo-hah when they passed away? Jerry Goldsmith was unique, flexible, innovative, but he had predecessors and peers whose musical achievements were equally noteworthy. I mean, just what was it about Jerry Goldsmith that made him the target he was for the more obsessive? The truth is hardly any of his fans ever met or knew the man (certainly not enough to call him "Jerry", though that never stopped most folk), and if they did it was maybe in passing as he signed your album at a concert (I still relish a moment in Nottingham in 1994 when some bloke said to Goldsmith "Actually, we've met before - you signed my album at a concert in 1979! ". God, I wish I'd taken a photo of Mr. Goldsmith's reaction).
 
For myself, I can claim to have known him more than most, but this was still hardly at all. I met Mr. Goldsmith several times during my stint as editor of the Goldsmith Society journal Legend (a post I eventually had to leave because I was becoming depressed and intimidated by the obsessive and defensive nature of some of the members, and also because I could worryingly see some of it in myself - time to step back, I thought). Anyway, in this role I got to attend some of his scoring sessions and even had lunch with him once (and I'm glad he paid, as the restaurant bill was mortifying!) So, right now, while I surely feel his loss, it's not on the same level of losing someone personally close to me. I knew his music, not him, and so I can't shed a tear for Jerry Goldsmith. If anything, I more likely could for his family, his friends and his colleagues, who will be missing him in immeasurably more profound and affecting ways.

Truth be told, while his passing is tragic, Jerry Goldsmith lived a long, fulfilled and decent life. He loved his family, his work and (most of the time) his fans, and quite properly in that very order. He found great success in work he loved, and earned the kind of money that enabled him to spend silly amounts on the odd seafood lasagne for a geeky, relative stranger.

Of course I still feel loss, but only because that there will be no more music from his remarkable mid and fingers. This said, he has left us more than enough to confirm his stature as one of the greatest composers to ever live. If you really want to pay your respects, start by not paying silly prices on eBay for bootlegs. Let us remember Jerry Goldsmith for his artistic achievements, not his collectability, and also give thanks for the fact that when his end came, it came peacefully, pain-free and with dignity.

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