SongwriterLeslie Bricusse

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Born in Pinner, Middlesex — now a London suburb — Bricusse acted while in college, but excelled in music. He put the two together, and wrote songs, scores, and/or lyrics for musical plays and films, often with partner Anthony Newley, starting with 1961’s Stop the World — I Want to Get Off, which was then made into a film of the same name. An absolute parade of hits followed, including Goldfinger (theme song, 1964), Doctor Dolittle (1967), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), and one of my faves, Victor Victoria (1982 film and the 1995 Broadway musical).

Bricusse with actress Joan Collins, who proclaimed him “One of the giant songwriters of our time.” (Photo: her Instagram feed)

Along the way he scooped up two Academy Awards, a Grammy, and a ton of Tony and Oscar nominations. (The most amusing: he was nominated for an Oscar for “Life in a Looking Glass” from the Blake Edwards dramedy That’s Life! — and nominated for the Golden Raspberry Award for “Worst ‘Original’ Song” — for the same song.) Bricusse was “the most underestimated British songwriter of all time,” said Andrew Lloyd Webber. Still, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014. His marriage to actress Yvonne Romain lasted too — for more than 60 years. “My first ever professional role was in Roar of the Greasepaint musical,” which he and Newley wrote as their second musical together. He had a sense of humor, too. In his memoir, Pure Imagination: A Sorta-biography [out of print, but available *], Bricusse says he is “one of the luckiest people I know, second only perhaps to Ringo Starr.” He died in his sleep on October 19, at 90.

From This is True for 24 October 2021