Stanley Black
Background information
Birth nameSolomon Schwartz
Born(1913-06-14)14 June 1913
Whitechapel, London, England
Died27 November 2002(2002-11-27) (aged 89)
London, England
  • Bandleader
  • composer
  • conductor
  • arranger
  • pianist
Years active1930s–2002

Stanley Black OBE (14 June 1913 – 27 November 2002) was an English bandleader, composer, conductor, arranger and pianist.[1] He wrote and arranged many film scores, recording prolifically for the Decca label (including their subsidiaries London and Phase 4). Beginning with jazz collaborations with American musicians such as Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter during the 1930s, he moved into arranging and recording in the Latin American music style and also won awards for his classical conducting.

Life and career

Black was born as Solomon Schwartz on 14 June 1913 in Whitechapel, England.[1] His parents were Polish and Romanian Jews.[2] He began piano lessons at the age of seven and trained in piano and composition under Rae Robertson at the Matthay School of Music. He was aged only 12 when his first classical composition was broadcast on BBC Radio.[3] His first professional job was for a C.B. Cochran 1930 theatrical revue followed by winning a Melody Maker competition for his arrangement of a jazz chorus the next year.[4]

In the early 1930s, he was employed in dance bands and had worked with Howard Jacobs, Joe Orlando, Lew Stone, Maurice Winnick and Teddy Joyce by the time he joined Harry Roy in 1936.[1] He had also broadcast and recorded with several American musicians, including jazz saxophonists Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter during their stays in England during this decade.[4] Hawkins had first heard Black on late night radio shows with Lew Stone's band. When the two eventually met in London, the reviewer Edgar Jackson suggested they record together, and the two men collaborated on a duet version of "Honeysuckle Rose".

During World War II, Black joined the Royal Air Force, and became involved in managing the entertainment of servicemen based at Wolverhampton. In 1944 he was appointed conductor of the BBC Dance Orchestra, and remained in the job for almost nine years, broadcasting as many as six nights a week.[1]

Black's radio work kept him in contact with a large listening audience, through his incidental music for shows such as Much Binding in the Marsh and the first two series of The Goon Show. He also conducted the BBC Dance Orchestra for the popular comedy show Ray's a Laugh, starring Ted Ray.[5] He later presented his own programmes on radio and television, including Black Magic and The Marvellous World of Stanley Black.[1]

In the early 1950s, he regularly topped the Melody Maker lists of the most-heard musicians on radio. He was chosen to be included on Decca's first release of long-playing records in the UK in June 1950. This enabled him to continue his conducting, arranging and performing career and resulted many albums. He was particularly popular in United States, as evidenced by his inclusion in the Billboard best-sellers lists.[1] During 1968–69, he was principal conductor of the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra.[4]

Becoming involved with the film industry, he composed and arranged music for about 200 films. He was appointed music director at Elstree Studios in 1958.[1] He was also principal conductor of the studio orchestra of Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC) and their musical director composer from 1958 to 1963.

During his life, he conducted many of Britain's major orchestras, and until the 1990s he was still directing regular broadcast sessions at the BBC studios, despite the onset of deafness in later life.


Black received numerous awards, including the OBE. He was made a life fellow of the International Institute of Arts and Letters, and life president of the Celebrities Guild of Great Britain.[1]

In 2003, Decca released a two-CD set, A Tribute to Stanley Black (473 940-2), including recordings from 1951 to 1979.

Personal life

Black was married to dance band singer Edna Kaye. The couple wed in 1947; they had a son and daughter.[6]

Black died in London, aged 89, on 27 November 2002.


Black is remembered for writing numerous scores for radio, television and cinema, including the theme-tune for The Goon Show.

Other films he composed scores for include Laughter in Paradise (1951), The Naked Truth (1957), Blood of the Vampire (1958), Too Many Crooks (1958), The Long and the Short and the Tall (1961), West 11 (1963), The System (1964), Crossplot (1969), and the Cliff Richard musicals The Young Ones (1961) and his orchestral backing for Richard's follow up, Summer Holiday (1962), which won him an Ivor Novello Award. His work also became familiar to millions of cinema audiences as a consequence of his theme tune and music library for Pathé News, written in 1960.[7]

He also recorded many classical works, including collections of Tchaikovsky and George Gershwin. In 1965 he won a Gramophone Award for his version of Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol. In addition, he arranged and conducted many commercially successful albums on LP and later CD like Tropical Moonlight, Cuban Moonlight, Black Magic, and series of Film Spectacular and Broadway Spectacular for Decca.

Selected discography

Selected filmography


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 142/3. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ ""Music of the People/ Spirit of the People" CD sleeve note cited at". Retrieved 6 October 2014.
  3. ^ McDonald, Tim (3 December 2002). "Stanley Black". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  4. ^ a b c "Stanley Black". The Daily Telegeraph. 28 November 2002. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  5. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra - Ray's a Laugh, From 11/10/49". BBC. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  6. ^ McDonald, Tim (3 December 2002). "Obituary: Stanley Black". the Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  7. ^ Spencsr Leigh Obituary: Stanley Black, The Independent, 2 December 2002