Dave Grusin: Film Composer

This is a blog about composer/musician/record label owner Dave Grusin.  If you have followed modern music during the six decades, you are familiar with Grusin, even if you don’t know the name.  He achieved success wearing many hats, including scoring films, like The Fabulous Baker Boys, which is a film about struggling musicians.

Grusin conducting a string section.

Grusin has more than a hundred entries on imdb.com for television and film work.  From composing entire soundtracks to providing music for episodic television to providing theme music for television programming – Grusin has done it all.

Grusin’s first association with the television/film industry was getting hired as an arranger for Andy William’s television show.  In 1964, he got an offer to write the music for the film, Divorce American Style.

In 1961, Grusin released his first jazz recording, Subways Are For Sleeping.  There would be many other albums as he balanced his television/film work and recording.  Grusin also became a session player and moved into arranging and producing other artists.  His association with Quincy Jones led to working with other jazz artists like Gerry Mulligan, Mel Torme, Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughan and Aretha Franklin.

In the 1970s, as Grusin-Rosen Productions grew in the artists they were producing, GRP Records was formed, as a jazz/pop/fusion label, releasing his own albums as well as artists like Kevin Eubands, Lee Ritenour, Billy Cobham, Chick Corea, Tom Scott, The Rippingtons, David Benoit, Gary Burton, Spyro Gyra, Patti Austin, Larry Carlton, Acoustic Alchemy and Ramsey Lewis.  This was quite an eclectic roster of artists.  Grusin and Rosen would sell their label in the early 1990s, staying active before moving on to work elsewhere.

The Grusin musical sound becomes evident with the theme to It Takes a Thief, a somber, sophisticated jazz score.  Series themes like Good Times and Maude show the ability to write more urban-inspired songs.  Beginning with Three Days of the Condor (1975) you hear the the low-key, introspective jazz style that would mark a lot of Grusin’s work moving forward.  On Golden Pond and Absence of Malice are examples of this melancholy and sentimental flavor.  The theme to the television show, St. Elsewhere, with the layers of programmed synthesizer was quite distinctive in the early 1980s.

Grusin was nominated for Academy Awards for his scores of Heaven Can Wait, The Champ, On Golden Pond, Tootsie, The Fabulous Baker Boys and Havana.  He won for The Milagro Beanfield War (1988).

The decade of the 1980s gave Grusin some of his more recognized work, particularly on soundtracks.

Here is a sampling of the work he is credit:

The Andy Williams Show (1963-1964) conductor

The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. (1966-1967) musical arranger

The Graduate (1967) additional music

Prescription Murder (the first appearance of Columbo) (1968) composer

It Takes a Thief (1968) theme music

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1968) theme music

Dan August (1970) theme music

Maude (1972) theme music

The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) soundtrack

Good Time (1974) theme music

Three Days of the Condor (1975) soundtrack

Murder By Death (1976) soundtrack

The Goodbye Girl (1977) soundtrack

Heaven Can Wait (1978) soundtrack

On Golden Pond (1981) soundtrack

Absence of Malice (1981) soundtrack

St. Elsewhere (1982) theme music

Tootsie (1982) soundtrack, co-writer “It Might Be You”

Falling in Love (1984) soundtrack, writer “Mountain Dance”

The Milagro Beanfield War (1988) soundtrack

Tequila Sunrise (1988) soundtrack

The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) soundtrack

Havana (1990)

The Firm (1993) soundtrack

Hope Floats (1998) soundtrack

Random Hearts (1999) soundtrack


81zP7kwvn2L._SL1404_The Fabulous Baker Boys was the story of two piano-playing brothers, Jack and Frank, who’s musical career is slowly fading into oblivion.  They decide to save the act by hiring a female singer to liven up their show.  The find a brassy singer, Susie Diamond, who is more than what they expect. They begin to see an upswing in their bookings and they are on the verge of becoming quite successful when it implodes.  Jack and Susie begin an affair and it leads to hostilities between the brothers, and a falling out between Jack and Susie.  Besides the the terrific character play between the actors, the music, new and traditional jazz standards, give the film a melancholy but sweetness that connects the viewer to the intimacy of the relationships.

All tracks written by Dave Grusin except where noted

“Main Title – Jack’s Theme” – 6:40

“Welcome to the Road” – 5:33

“Makin’ Whoopee” (Walter Donaldson, Gus Kahn) – 3:09

“Suzie and Jack” – 5:00

“Shop Till You Bop” – 4:35

“Soft on Me” – 2:30

“Do Nothing till You Hear from Me” (Duke Ellington, Bob Russell) – 3:26

“The Moment of Truth” – 3:55

“Moonglow” (Irving Mills, Eddie DeLange) – 3:25

“Lullaby of Birdland” (George Shearing, George David Weiss) – 2:32

“My Funny Valentine” (Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart) – 3:02


Grusin released a collection of his best known film music in Cinemagic. R-3000385-1429654560-6067.jpeg

  1. “On Golden Pond” (main theme from On Golden Pond) – 3:35
  2. “New Hampshire Hornpipe” (from On Golden Pond) – 2:22
  3. “Heaven Can Wait” (main theme from Heaven Can Wait) – 4:35
  4. “An Actor’s Life” (main theme from Tootsie – 5:07
  5. “It Might Be You” – (Dave Grusin, Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman) (from Tootsie) – 5:08
  6. “Fratelli Chase” (from The Goonies) – 3:15
  7. “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” (from The Heart is a Lonely Hunter) – 4:40
  8. “Mountain Dance” (main theme from Falling in Love) – 6:14
  9. “Letting Go – T.J.’s Theme” (from The Champ) – 2:51
  10. “The Champ” (main theme from The Champ) – 3:25
  11. “Condor” (from Three Days of the Condor) – 4:42
  12. “Goodbye for Cathy” (from Three Days of the Condor) – 3:57
  13. “PLO Camp Entrance” (from The Little Drummer Girl) – 2:51
  14. “Epilogue” (from The Little Drummer Girl) – 3:22



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