Lalo Schifrin is an Argentine-American pianist and composer.
Schifrin was born Boris Claudio Schifrin in Buenos Aires of Jewish heritage. At the age of six, Schifrin began a six-year course of study on piano with Enrique Barenboim, the father of the pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim. At age 16, Schifrin began studying piano with the Russian expatriate Andreas Karalis, former head of the Kiev Conservatory, and harmony with Argentine composer Juan-Carlos Paz. During this time, Schifrin also became interested in jazz.
Although Schifrin studied sociology and law at the University of Buenos Aires, it was music that captured his attention. At age 20, he successfully applied for a scholarship to the Paris Conservatoire. While there, he attended Olivier Messiaen's classes and formally studied with Charles Koechlin, a disciple of Maurice Ravel. At night he played jazz in the Paris clubs. In 1955, Schifrin played piano with Astor Piazzolla and represented his country at the International Jazz Festival in Paris.
After returning home to Argentina, Schifrin formed a jazz orchestra, a 16-piece band that became part of a popular weekly variety show on Buenos Aires TV. Schifrin also began accepting other film, television and radio assignments. In 1956, Schifrin met Dizzy Gillespie and offered to write an extended work for Gillespie's big band. Schifrin completed the work, Gillespiana, in 1958. Later that year Schifrin began working as an arranger for Xavier Cugat's popular dance orchestra.
While in New York in 1960, Schifrin again met Gillespie, who had by this time disbanded his big band for financial reasons. Gillespie invited Schifrin to fill the vacant piano chair in his quintet. Schifrin immediately accepted and moved to New York City. In 1963, MGM, which had Schifrin under contract, offered the composer his first Hollywood film assignment with the African adventure, Rhino! Schifrin moved to Hollywood late that year.
To date, he has written more than 100 scores for films, television and video games. Among the classic scores are The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Mannix, The Fox, Cool Hand Luke, Bullitt, Enter the Dragon, THX 1138, The Four Musketeers, Dirty Harry, The Big Brawl, The Cincinnati Kid, T.H.E. Cat, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Voyage of the Damned, Rollercoaster, The Amityville Horror and The Osterman Weekend.
One of Schifrin's most recognizable and enduring compositions is the theme music for the long-running TV series Mission: Impossible. It is a famously distinctive tune written in an unusual 5/4 time signature.
Recent film scores include Rush Hour, Rush Hour 2, Rush Hour 3, Bringing Down the House, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, After the Sunset, and Abominable. He also wrote the songs for Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. In the 1999 film Tango, Schifrin returned to the tango music he had grown familiar with while working as Astor Piazzolla's pianist in the mid-1950s. He brought traditional tango songs to the film as well as introducing compositions of his own in which tango is fused with jazz elements.
In 1970, he composed the Paramount Television logo jingle "Color I.D." It was an 8-note jingle featuring horns, woodwinds and timpani. This music would have a long run in Paramount's TV production logos through 1987.
Schifrin's "Tar Sequence" from his Cool Hand Luke score was the longtime theme for the Eyewitness News broadcasts on New York station WABC-TV and other ABC affiliates, as well as National Nine News in Australia. CBS Television used part of the theme of his St. Ives soundtrack for its golf broadcasts in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Schifrin's working score for 1973's The Exorcist was rejected by the film's director William Friedkin. Schifrin had written six minutes of difficult and heavy music for the initial film trailer but audiences were reportedly too scared by the combination of sights and sounds. Warner Bros. executives told Friedkin to instruct Schifrin to tone it down with softer music, but Friedkin did not relay the message. Schifrin's final score was thrown out into the parking lot. Schifrin reported in an interview that working with Friedkin was the one of the most unpleasant experiences in his life.
To date, Lalo Schifrin has won four Grammy Awards, one Cable ACE Award, and received six Oscar nominations, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.