John Morris, music composer of 'Dirty Dancing' and 'Blazing Saddles,' dies at 91

John Morris

The Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning John Morris passed away on Jan. 25, 2018. He was 91 years old.

Morris was a music composer working in Hollywood, most widely recognized for working with Mel Brooks on several comedies. Morris composed Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles — which helped Morris earn his first Oscar nomination, due to his work on the title song.

Morris and Brook’s collaborations date back to 1967, when Morris was brought on board for The Producers.

“He was my emotional right arm,” Brooks said about Morris in a telephone interview with The New York Times. “Music tells you what to feel and he knew what I wanted you to feel. He composed it and made it happen."

John Morris later received a second Oscar nomination in 1980 — for Best Music, Original Score for The Elephant Man. His work on The Elephant Man also landed him a Grammy nomination.

In addition, Morris provided memorable scores to films such as Spaceballs, Dirty Dancing, The Twelve Chairs, History of the World Part 1, High Anxiety, Clue, Johnny Dangerously and Bank Shot. Total, he had 64 composing credits to his name on IMDB.

Morris also had a hand in some television scores as well. He had a large hand in certain ‘70s shows like The French Chef and Coach, as well as a handful of mini-series. In 1978, Morris was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for his work on The Tap Dance Kid.

He was even active in Broadway — arranging over a dozen musicals such as Bells Are Ringing and Bye Bye Birdie from the 1950’s through the ‘70s. In 1966 he wrote and created his own Broadway musical — A Time for Singing — which ran for two months.

John Morris was born on Oct. 18, 1926 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He passed away at his home in Red Hook, New York. He is survived by his wife, a daughter, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Top photo credit: The Film Music Society

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