Leslie Bricusse, Willy Wonka and Goldfinger Songwriter, Dies at 90
Leslie Bricusse, a composer and lyricist known for contributing music for films such as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Goldfinger, and Victor/Victoria, has passed away at the age of 90. The news was confirmed in a social media post by actress Joan Collins, who referred to Bricusse as "one of the giant songwriters of our time." Bricusse apparently passed away on Tuesday, October 19th, with the cause of death unknown at this time.
Bricusse was born on January 29, 1931 in Pinner, Middlesex, and attended Cambridge's Gonville and Caius College in the 1950s. While attending the school, he served as Secretary and later President of Footlights, Cambridge's world-renowned, student-run theatrical club. Bricusse's first work in the film and television industry was the 1956 musical Charley Moon, which he also wrote the screenplay for.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Bricusse began a professional partnership with Anthony Newley, which resulted in projects such as Stop the World — I Want to Get Off, Babes in Toyland, The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the Crowd (which spawned the Nina Simone hit "Feeling Good"), and Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, the latter of which earned them an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score for songs such as "The Candy Man" and "Pure Imagination". He also collaborated with Henry Mancini on Victor/Victoria, and John Williams on "Can You Read My Mind", the love theme for 1978's Superman movie. He would collaborate with Williams again on songs for Hook, Home Alone, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. He also worked on two James Bond themes — Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger", alongside Newley and John Barry, and Nancy Sinatra's "You Only Live Twice", alongside Barry.
"The early songs - things like 'Goldfinger', for example - came purely circumstantially," Bricusse explained in a 2015 interview with Musical Theatre Review. "John Barry said: "What the Bond songs always have been - from the time that Lionel Bart wrote 'From Russia With Love' - is about who's hot at that moment." Like Adele most recently, [whose song 'Skyfall' became the first Bond song ever to win an Oscar]. No song even got nominated except 'Nobody Does It Better', by which time the Bond films had been on for 15 years or so. They weren't the sort of films one thought of winning Oscars for Best Song - it was more of your beautiful songs like 'Moon River' or 'The Shadow of Your Smile'. When I was doing Doctor Dolittle at Fox, I became - purely by chance - the resident lyricist just because they all knew I was doing a film musical. That's how I met John Williams and all sorts of people who wanted songs for their movies."
Bricusse ultimately earned two Academy Awards for his work on Victor/Victoria and Doctor Dolittle's "Talk to the Animals" song, as well as a Grammy in 1963 for Stop the World's "What Kind of Fool Am I."
Bricusse is survived by his wife Evie and his son Adam.
Our thoughts are with Bricusse's family, friends, and fans at this time.