Johnny Mandel, iconic composer of ‘MASH’ theme, dies at 94

Oscar-and Grammy-winning composer Johnny Mandel has passed away aged 94.

Tributes have poured in for Mandel, whose prolific career includes the scores of more than 30 films and tv shows, as well as orchestral arrangements for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, and Hoagy Carmichael.

johnny mandel composer MASH (1)
Photo: Steve Banks/MPTV

Renowned American composer Johnny Mandel, known for his prolific career arranging popular music and films scores, has passed away.

Born in New York, Mandel began playing the trumpet as a teenager and studied under top composer Van Alexander, eventually attending Manhattan School of Music and Juilliard in New York.

Mandel began playing for Joe Venuti’s band, and in the late ’40s and early ’50s, he performed in the swing bands of Henry Jerome, Boyd Raeburn, Jimmy Dorsey, Buddy Rich, Alvino Rey and Count Basie. Following this, he began arranging for the bands of Woody Herman, Artie Shaw, Elliot Lawrence, and Chet Baker.

Throughout his career, Mandel scored upwards of 30 Hollywood films, including The Americanization of Emily, The Sandpiper (including the popular song The Shadow of Your Smile), Harper, An American Dream, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, and Point Blank in the ’60s. Later on, Mandel wrote scores for Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams, The Last Detail, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea, Agatha, Being There, Caddyshack, Deathtrap, and The Verdict. 

In 1970, Mandel composed the score for the 11-year-long American war comedy-drama tv series MASH. Mandel also composed themes for other television series, including Banyon, Too Close for Comfort, Markham, Chrysler Theatre, as well as TV-movies A Letter to Three Wives, LBJ: The Early Years, Foxfire, Evita Peron, Christmas Eve, and Kaleidoscope. 

Mandel received five Grammys throughout his career as well as the Golden Score Award from the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers. In 2010 he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

He has been remembered by numerous figures including Michael Buble who described Mandel as a “genius and one of my favorite writers, arrangers, and personalities.”