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Percy Faith
Faith at work in 1949
Faith at work in 1949
Background information
BornApril 7, 1908
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
DiedFebruary 9, 1976(1976-02-09) (aged 67)
Encino, California, U.S.
Occupation(s)Bandleader, orchestrator, composer
Websitewww.percyfaith.info

Percy Faith (April 7, 1908 – February 9, 1976) was a Canadian–American bandleader, orchestrator, composer and conductor,[1] known for his lush arrangements of instrumental ballads and Christmas standards. He is often credited with popularizing the "easy listening" or "mood music" format. He became a staple of American popular music in the 1950s and continued well into the 1960s.[1] Although his professional orchestra-leading career began at the height of the swing era, he refined and rethought orchestration techniques, including use of large string sections, to soften and fill out the brass-dominated popular music of the 1940s.[2]

Biography

Faith was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.[1] He was the oldest of eight children. His parents, Abraham Faith and Minnie, née Rottenberg, were Jewish. He played violin and piano as a child, and played in theatres and at Massey Hall. After his hands were badly burned in a fire, he turned to conducting, and his live orchestras used the new medium of radio broadcasting. He moved from Canada to Great Neck, New York and became a United States citizen.[3][4]

Beginning with stations CKNC and CKCL, Faith was a staple of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's live-music broadcasting from 1933 to 1940, when he resettled in Chicago, Illinois.[1] In the early 1940s, Faith was orchestra leader for the Carnation Contented program on NBC.[5] From 1948 to 1949 he also served as the orchestra leader on the CBS radio network program The Coca-Cola Hour (also called The Pause That Refreshes). The orchestral accordionist John Serry Sr. collaborated with Faith in these broadcasts.[6] He also led the orchestra on The Woolworth Hour on CBS radio (1955–1957).[7]

In 1945, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He made many recordings for Voice of America. After working briefly for Decca Records, he worked for Mitch Miller at Columbia Records, where he turned out dozens of albums and provided arrangements for many of the pop singers of the 1950s, including Tony Bennett, Doris Day, Johnny Mathis for Mathis's 1958 Christmas album titled Merry Christmas, and Guy Mitchell for whom Faith co-wrote with Carl Sigman Mitchell's number-one single, "My Heart Cries for You".[1]

His most famous and remembered recordings are "Delicado" (1952), "The Song from Moulin Rouge" (1953) and "Theme from A Summer Place" (1959),[1] which won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1961. Faith remains the only artist to have the best selling single of the year during both the pop singer era ("Song from Moulin Rouge") and the rock era ("Theme from A Summer Place"); and he is one of only three artists, along with Elvis Presley and The Beatles, to have the best selling single of the year twice. The B-side of "Song from the Moulin Rouge" was "Swedish Rhapsody" by Hugo Alfvén. In 1961 his fame in Sweden rose exponentially as his work Mucho Gusto became the theme music for the sports broadcasts of Sveriges Radio.

Although Faith initially mined the worlds of Broadway, Hollywood and Latin music for many of his top-selling 1950s recordings, he enjoyed popularity starting in 1962 with his orchestral versions of popular rock and pop hits of the day. His Themes for Young Lovers album was a top seller during this era and introduced the Faith sound to a younger generation of listeners. With the success of Columbia record-mate Ray Conniff's chorus and orchestra during this same time, Faith began using a chorus (usually all female in most of his recordings, but used a mixed chorus on his albums Leaving on a Jet Plane and I Think I Love You, which were released in 1970 and 1971 respectively) in several popular albums from the mid-1960s on. Faith's first single with a female chorus, "Yellow Days," was a substantial hit in the MOR (Middle of the Road) easy listening radio format of the mid-1960s. Faith continued to enjoy airplay and consistent album sales throughout the early 1970s, and received a second Grammy award in 1969 for his album Love Theme from 'Romeo and Juliet'.

Although best known for his recording career, Faith also occasionally scored motion pictures, and received an Academy Award nomination for his adaptation of the song score for the Doris Day musical feature, Love Me or Leave Me.[1] His other film scores included romantic comedies and dramatic features such as Tammy Tell Me True (1961), I'd Rather Be Rich (1964), The Third Day (1965) and The Oscar (1966).[1] Faith also composed the theme for the NBC series The Virginian.

With the advent of harder rock sounds in the 1970s, Faith's elegant arrangements fell out of favour with the listening and record-buying public, although he continued to release albums as diverse and contemporary as Jesus Christ Superstar and Black Magic Woman. He released one album of country music and two albums of disco-oriented arrangements toward the end of his forty-year career, his last recording being a disco-style reworking of "Theme from a Summer Place", titled "Summer Place '76", which was a minor and posthumous hit. Faith died of cancer in Encino, California,[1] and was interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Faith had two children, Marilyn and Peter, with his wife Mary (née Palange), whom he married in 1928. She died in Los Angeles in 1997.

Discography

Albums

Percy Faith placed 21 albums on the Billboard Hot 200 best sellers chart through 1972, making him one of the more successful easy listening acts sales-wise. 1963's Themes for Young Lovers was by far his biggest seller, peaking at No. 32 on the chart and followed by three sequel albums "for young lovers". Throughout his career he was associated with Columbia Records. Occasionally he had albums released on the Columbia imprint Harmony Records.

Compilations

Singles

Faith produced the following singles:[8][9]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Colin Larkin, ed. (2002). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Fifties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. p. 131. ISBN 1-85227-937-0.
  2. ^ Taylor, Derek. The Golden Age of Easy Listening (2024), pp. 53-58
  3. ^ "Percy Faith album: Percy Faith Program". www.percyfaith.info. Retrieved October 13, 2020.
  4. ^ "Great Neck Online | Some Famous Great Neckers". www.westegg.com. Archived from the original on February 26, 2021. Retrieved October 13, 2020.
  5. ^ "Say Hello to ...". Radio and Television Mirror. Vol. 15, no. 4. February 1941. p. 39.
  6. ^ Sold on Radio-Advertisers in the Golden Age of Broadcasting Cox, Jim. McFarland & Co., North Carolina, USA & London, UK, 2008, p. 119. ISBN 978-0-7864-3391-9
  7. ^ Dunning, John (May 7, 1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. p. 726. ISBN 978-0-19-984045-8. Retrieved October 21, 2023.
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel, ed. (2007). Joel Whitburn Presents Billboard Top Adult Songs (1961–2006). Record Research. ISBN 9780898201697.
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel, ed. (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop memories, 1890–1954. Record Research. ISBN 9780898200836.