Most of us are aware of examples of modern musicians updating and reinterpreting classics — it’s certainly been a long-standing tradition in the music world. After all, Mozart was probably fond of re-working some of Handel’s stuff…well, maybe not, but you get my drift.
In more recent times, you can see example after example. Some of my favorites include Benny Goodman doing Mozart’s clarinet concerto, Glen Gray and his Casa Loma orchestra producing an entire album of modernized classical pieces, and Duke Ellington, who contributed a jazz version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.
Late last year a death occurred that drew little attention in the US, but was much bigger news in Europe. When Paul Mauriat died in Southern France at age 81, the world lost a gifted musician, one who was a master at navigating between classical and pop music, sometimes combining the two in an irresistible way.
He came from a family with long-standing traditions in classical music and was schooled to continue on the same path. However, as an adult he began to be more and more attracted to popular music, and by the time he began to find some success in the 1960’s it was as a pop music composer.
His first hit in Europe, “Chariot”, was renamed and given lyrics in English, turning it into “I Will Follow You (Him)”, which then became a number one smash for Peggy Marsh. It was just the first of many successes for Mauriat as a songwriter, but he also continued to get more exposure as an orchestra leader, which in turn led to a long career with huge record sales.
His many successful recordings included his best known song, “Love Is Blue”, but for three decades he was a force in music in a number of different arenas, including composing, arranging, conducting and collaborating with some of the world’s best. During this time he was very prolific as a composer, but he also found time to experiment a little with the music of his youth. Among his many albums were several that featured his take on classical music. For example, his version of a little something from Mozart, “Canzona”.
Paul Mauriat will be remembered for a long time by his fans and anyone who appreciates his long career and his dedication to music of every kind.