Ron Goodwin was born on 17th February 1925 in Plymouth. He was the son of a London policeman who was detached to the harbour-town. His mother felt that piano lessons would be a good pastime, so in his fifth year, the little Ron was hoisted onto a piano-stool and his education on this instrument began. Ron himself was at that time not really convinced about that parental ambition.
In 1934 his father's detachment ended and the family moved back to London. Ron went for his elementary education to the Willesden County Grammar school, situated in the North-West of London. In the school an orchestra was set-up and Ron got slowly attracted by music. It fascinated him, that all these young people were playing different instruments but that the result was very harmonious.
When he was 11, he went to his teacher and asked for a place in the orchestra. His teacher replied: "We don't have enough trumpet players. Learn how to play the trumpet and we'll see". That's what they call "Hobson's Choice". And so he learned to play the trumpet. Ready after just a few lessons, Ron joined the school orchestra. He kept continuing with his trumpet lessons because he felt that there was more prosperity in a career as a trumpet player than as a pianist. Moreover he had more fun in playing the trumpet. Nevertheless he also continued his piano lessons. The piano has always been a very useful instrument for him, when writing music. But frankly, he never became a virtuoso pianist. He was a much better trumpet player.
The end of the '30s was the era of swing with the great big bands of Glen Miller, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey and Woody Herman. In 1939, at the age of just 14, he formed his own dance band called "The Woodchoppers". Very soon the orchestra got some engagements here and there. The signature tune for their performances was "At the Woodchoppers Ball", a swinging Woody Herman composition. That explains the name "The Woodchoppers". The band was very soon semi-professional and very regularly entered competitions for dance bands.
After he had studied harmony and counterpoint, he left school in 1942. In deference to his mother's doubts about the security status and prospects of music as a career, he took a job as junior clerk in an insurance office. He held the job for three months. After repeatedly catching him fixing gigs for "The Woodchoppers" over the office 'phone, Ron's boss advised him to forget insurance and take his chances in music. He still thinks that this is the best advice ever given to him.
He started as a copyist for the music publisher Campbell Connelly. There he got the opportunity to work with and learn from Harry G. Stafford. This was an elderly thoroughly experienced arranger, who had arranged the music of Hubert Bath for Hitchcock's first English sound film Blackmail (1929) in 1929. Stafford taught him all the methods for producing arrangements and how to lay out a score. In that period he also studied a private course on how to conduct an orchestra with Siegfried de Chabot, a teacher at the Royal Music College.
After a few months working for Campbell Connelly, he applied for a job as an arranger for Norrie Paramor and Harry Gold. They were joint-proprietors of "The Paramor-Gold Orchestral Services" and they also had a jazz orchestra called "The Pieces of Eight". He was hired, although he thinks that it was not only because of his skills as an arranger. In that jazz orchestra there used to be an excellent trumpet player called Cyril Ellis. He was drafted for the Navy and so Paramor and Gold lacked a musician. Goodwin, being a trumpet player, replaced Cyril in the orchestra and was also the arranger of the "Paramor-Gold Orchestral Services".
As an arranger he was particularly working for a BBC program called "Composers Cavalcade". Every week a different well-known composer of light music, like Albert Ketelby, Noël Coward or Ivor Novello was chosen. Goodwin provided all the arrangements for these weekly broadcasts and he got a lot of experience through it. In the meantime his band, "The Woodchoppers", won several Dance Band competitions and in 1945 came fifth in the All Britain Dance Band Championship.
After the contract with Norrie Paramor ended, he started working for the music-publisher Edward Kassner. Here he arranged the music for various types of orchestras. One day a pub or dance orchestra, the other day for BBC radio orchestras. In the meantime he also did the orchestrations for well-know orchestra leaders like Stanley Black, Ted Heath, Geraldo, Peter Yorke and Ambrose.
In 1949 he started working for Polygon. In those days the record market was dominated by two giants: Decca and EMI. Polygon was the brainchild of Alan Freeman (not to be confused with the D.J. of the same name). He also continued working or the Kassner Music Company as a manager/publisher and he was determined to fulfil his greatest wish - making records. He already had some contacts in Australia who wanted pop records and he decided to have these sung by Petula Clark. Petula was born on 15 November 1932 as Sally Clark. From her seventh year she had been singing regularly and had become a popular child-star through her radio performances during World War II. In 1944, when she was 11, she signed a film contract for the Rank Organisation. Despite her popularity neither Decca nor EMI were willing to give her a contract. Alan Freeman approached Leslie Clark, Petula's father who was also her manager. Leslie Clark took up the opportunity, invested also some money and Polygon was born.
At the end of 1949 the first recording session took place. That day four titles were recorded: "You go to My Head", "Out of a Clear Blue Sky", "Music! Music! Music!" ("Put Another Nickel in...") and "Blossoms on the Bough", featuring Petula Clark and the Stargazers with accompaniment conducted by Ron Goodwin. He was then just 24 years old. The 2 records were released in Australia and became a big success there. In 1950 "Too Young" was recorded, a cover version of Nat King Cole's USA no. 1 hit, sung by the then completely unknown singer/pianist, Jimmy Young, with accompaniment conducted by Ron Goodwin. The record became a big hit and gave a huge impulse to the careers of both Jimmy Young and Ron Goodwin. After that, Ron also recorded his first two instrumental records.
Polygon was not able to handle the enormous success of Jimmy Young and by the end of 1952 he moved to Decca. Ron Goodwin already had his contract with Parlophone, but on the Decca label he conducted fifteen Jimmy Young records. Ron Goodwin was still very young and the producer Dickie Rowe called him Ronnie Goodwin on the first of those Decca records. It did not go so well with Polygon after that. The company was not able to make up for the loss of Jimmy Young. Petula proved to be their only continuing asset and in 1955 Polygon was amalgamated with (Pye) Nixa.
In the slipstream of the success of "Too Young" Ron Goodwin was from then on an established name in the British musical world, performing under the name: "Ron Goodwin and his Orchestra" or depending on the mood of the person in charge of the marketing: "Ron Goodwin and his Concert Orchestra". The orchestra he formed consisted at first of 36 persons but later it grew to 42. All of them were session musicians personally selected by him. These musicians worked for him only during the record sessions. A day later they could be working for, for instance, Mantovani or Geraldo. Indeed, the Mantovani orchestra was also comprised entirely of session musicians.
In 1951 Ron Goodwin met George Martin, who was at that time a young assistant recording manager at Parlophone. George offered him a contract of backings for 12 vocal singles and 6 singles with his own orchestra every year. His first instrumental record on Parlophone was released in 1953. In that same year he recorded his version of Charles Chaplin's "Limelight" and reached third place in the English hit parade with it.
In the following years he made numerous records with his orchestra and did the vocal backings of, amongst others: Eamonn Andrews, Joan Baxter, Christine Campbell, Petula Clark, Jim Dale, Bruce Forsyth, Nadia Gray, The Headliners, Edmund Hockridge, Dick James, Cynthia Lanagan, Zack Laurence, Lorne Lesley, Larry Marschall, Glen Mason, Spike Milligan, Morecambe & Wise, Parlophone Pops Orchestra, Rostal & Schaefer, Edna Savage, Peter Sellers, Joan Small, Ian Wallace, Alma Warren and Jimmy Young.
Nowadays, many of those names are not familiar anymore to us, but in those days you could find them regularly in the hit parades. Jim Dale started as a rock-singer, but became later a comedian and a member of the cast of the "Carry on..." films. Dick James started his own publishing company and became later the publisher of all the Beatles hits. And Edmund Hockridge? He still has his own fan club.
In 1954 Ron Goodwin recorded his first album in his own right: "Film Favourites". After that followed many more LPs, also 2 oriental: "Music for an Arabian Night" and "Holiday in Beirut". Long before he recorded "Sergeant Pepper ....." with The Beatles, George Martin was the producer of many concept-albums. A perfect example is the Goodwin album "Out of this World". On this LP the galaxy is traversed in an orchestral way (without the use of synthesisers!). Released in 1958, a few months after the first satellite "Sputnik" was put into orbit. Photos of launched rockets were not available yet, so the rocket on the front cover is a drawn one.
In 1958 the skiffle-rhythm was a rage and Goodwin wrote "Skiffling Strings". The song entered the hit parade and the American label "Capitol" was interested to release it in the USA. But the Americans were wondering what "Skiffling" really meant. In America the skiffle-rage was completely unknown. So, the song was re-titled "Swingin' Sweethearts". Ron Goodwin and George Martin went to the States to promote the single in several television-broadcasts. Within 14 days the song entered the American hit parades and was later followed by "Lingering Lovers". Quite a number of his albums were released after that in the USA. In that year he received the Ivor Novello Award" for "Lingering Lovers" as the year's best English song.
Peter Sellers was already a well-known actor in Britain, especially because of his performances in the BBC broadcasting series "The Goon Show". In 1958, 1959 and 1960 he recorded three LPs. These albums are still considered as the standard for British comedy. The production of those albums was again in the hands of George Martin. Ron Goodwin did all the conducting of the accompanying music. The third album in the series was called: "Peter and Sophia". In 1960, Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren had just finished the shooting of the film The Millionairess (1960). In this film Sellers played an Indian doctor, who was waylaid by an enamoured Sophia Loren. The co-operation of both led to this album, on which they both did the song "Goodness Gracious Me!". The song became a massive hit and remained in the top 5 for weeks. For the recording of the album Sophia Loren was flown to London with her husband Carlo Ponti, where he met Ron Goodwin. In 1965 they renewed their acquaintance when Carlo Ponti produced the film Operation Crossbow (1965) and Ron Goodwin wrote the music.
Back in 1955, Ron Goodwin was involved for the first time in composing film music. Malcolm Arnold (of "Bridge on the River Kwai" fame) had written the score for the film The Night My Number Came Up (1955). The producer wanted several sequences with dance music in night club style. Arnold refused to write this music and so Ron Goodwin was asked to write these sequences. In the following years he wrote the music for several documentaries. 1956: "The Corrington Achievement" and in 1957 "Atlantic Line". They appear to be the exercises for the larger jobs.
In 1958 he met Lawrence P. Bachmann, at that time manager for Columbia Pictures in London. Bachmann had written a book and this was going to be filmed with the title Whirlpool (1959). He commissioned Ron Goodwin to write the music for this film. That was Goodwin's first contact with a feature film. A year later Bachmann became head of production of MGM-Europe. He liked the music Goodwin wrote for his film "Whirlpool" very much and he asked him to write the music for 4 or 5 films every year. The first of those was Village of the Damned (1960), still one of the best British science fiction films. This was followed by the very successful Miss Marple film-series featuring Margaret Rutherford.
Because he was so busy writing film music, there was no more time left for vocal backings and his contract as musical-director for Parlophone was not prolonged. For the time being, the last album he recorded was "Serenade", which contained his well-known version of "Elizabethan Serenade".
Films he scored in the early sixties included: Invasion Quartet (1961), Postman's Knock (1962) (with a hilarious vocal from Spike Milligan), The Day of the Triffids (1962), Kill or Cure (1962), Follow the Boys (1963) (featuring Connie Francis) and Sword of Lancelot (1963). These were followed in 1964 by the United Artists/Mirisch Corporation film 633 Squadron (1964). This score established Ron Goodwin on the international stage as a composer of film music. The main theme became one of his most well-known and for the past several years has been used as a sort of signature tune at the start of the Rotterdam Marathon to accompany and encourage the athletes. After that film there followed even more film scores of which the most well-known are: Of Human Bondage (1964), _Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes (1965)_, Operation Crossbow (1965), The Trap (1966) (the theme from which was adopted by the BBC for their coverage of The London Marathon), Where Eagles Dare (1968), Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (1969), Battle of Britain (1969), Frenzy (1972) - when he replaced a score by Henry Mancini - and Force 10 from Navarone (1978).
In 1969, a very awkward situation existed with Battle of Britain (1969). Originally Sir William Walton wrote the music for this film. The producers were not really satisfied with the music and they gave the assignment to Goodwin. Sir William Walton is a kind of an institution and there was a lot of commotion about it. But Ron Goodwin was not to blame that he was signed to do the score. That Goodwin's score was apparently better, is simply proved by the fact that it was accepted by the producers. Apart, that is, from the fact that they liked Walton's "Battle in the Air" sequence more than Goodwin's and this is used in the film. These things can happen if one can choose. And so, nobody was happy with the situation, not Walton and not Goodwin.
In "Battle of Britain" it was very important that the audience could constantly identify the combatants. Ron Goodwin therefore wrote a march for the German Luftwaffe which he called, yes indeed, "Luftwaffe March". A few years later, one of the Bands of the Royal Airforce was going to record an album with marches, including "Luftwaffe March". A march with that name, recorded by an RAF Band already existed, therefore the march was re-titled "Aces High". The first editions of the soundtrack album mention the title "Luftwaffe march". On the later re-issues the new title "Aces High" was used.
In 1966 he resumed recording again for EMI, of both his own compositions and those of others. Now in the famous "Studio 2" stereo series, first came "Adventure", followed by "Gypsy Fire", "Christmas Wonderland", "Legend of the Glass Mountain", "Excitement", "Spellbound" and many others. By 1975, over a million of these albums with "Ron Goodwin and his (Concert) orchestra" had been sold and he received a gold record from EMI.
In 1979 Goodwin recorded "The Beatles Concerto". For collectors of Beatles and related records this is a very interesting LP. It was not the umpteenth album with a medley of tunes by Lennon-McCartney-Harrison, but contains a number of Beatle songs, arranged in a classical form and performed by England's most talented concert-pianists: Peter Rostal and Paul Schaefer. These were accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The record was produced by Beatles producer George Martin. Anyone who loves the great piano concertos of Rachmaninov or Tchaikovsky will be impressed by "The Beatles Concerto". The sleeve with a fantastic full-colour inner sleeve with photos of the recording sessions is a gem. There were over 100,000 copies of the album sold. And still is there a demand for it.
The last film he scored, was the Danish animated feature _Valhalla (1987)_. The soundtrack album was only released in Scandinavia and that is really a pity. The released soundtracks of Goodwin's animation-scores were more or less fairytale records for children: narration with background music and songs. But that is not the case with "Valhalla". This is a fantastic symphonic score, without the many songs which seems to be obligatory in all animation films. This music would perfectly fit a live-motion film, it is full of fresh and new elements. Maybe this is also a result of synergy, because he wrote this score in collaboration with the Dane, Bent Hesselmann.
In 1979 the City Fathers of his native town Plymouth invited him to compose a Suite for the commemoration of the 400th Anniversary of Sir Francis Drake's circumnavigation of the Globe. The vicinity of the Atlantic and the atmosphere of a harbour-town in his childhood years, probably had their influence on this Suite.
The influence of his lengthy stay in hit parade environments and his accompaniments of various pop artistes are audible in several scores. For instance That Riviera Touch (1966) and Kill or Cure (1962) are really swinging numbers. A problem for Goodwin was that his best scores were made in a period when film producers were not particularly interested in releasing a soundtrack, so many of them failed to get a release.
In 1970 Ron Goodwin was invited by the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to conduct a programme of his film music. To ease the tension between items, he improvised and told the audience some remarks and anecdotes about the performed pieces. They started to laugh. It turned out to be the turning point in his career. The idea was born to bring in concert a mixture of film and light music and the items melt together with a touch of humour. Within a few months a tour was organized and he toured constantly with different well-known Symphony orchestras all over the world, always playing to a full house. The orchestras he toured with included: The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, The Odense Symphony Orchestra, The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, The Denver Symphony Orchestra and The Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Ron Goodwin has scored approximately 70 films, there are between 70 and 80 albums released of his music and he recorded and accompanied on 250-350 singles. Films of the type like "Where Eagles Dare", "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines" and "Monte Carlo or Bust", to which the music of Ron Goodwin makes a great contribution, are not being made anymore. And that is unfortunate in two ways: firstly, because we will not see those kind of films anymore and secondly, because we will not hear that kind of music anymore!
|Heather Goodwin||(? - 8 January 2003) (his death) 1 child|
Child: son Christopher.
Conducted The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in many concerts of film music at the Colston Hall, Bristol, England.
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