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Les Reed

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Biography

b. 24 July 1935, Woking, Surrey, England. A pianist, conductor, arranger, musical director, and highly successful composer, particularly in the 60s and 70s. Reed’s father, a semi-professional mouth-organist with a local troupe, the Westfield Kids, was eager to formalize his son’s interest in music. Keyboard lessons from the age of six, and a spell as the Kids’ accordionist prefaced a Royal College of Music scholarship and National Service in the Royal East Kent Regiment. As well as learning clarinet, he also played piano in a mess dance band that included saxophonist Tony Coe who, years later assisted Reed and Robert Farnon on Pop Makes Progress. On demobilization in 1956, Reed became a freelance session player, then joined the John Barry Seven who, as well as playing in concerts and on records in their own right, backed other artists - notably those appearing on Jack Good’s Oh Boy! television series. Among them was Adam Faith, for whom Reed wrote a b-side. From this small beginning as a pop composer, Reed’s 60 or more major hits since have earned numerous gold discs, Ivor Novello awards and, in 1982, the British Academy Gold Badge Of Merit. In the mid-60s, it was unusual for a British singles chart not to list a Les Reed song (usually with collaborators like Gordon Mills, Geoff Stephens or Barry Mason). Among numerous Top 30 acts indebted to Reed as writer and arranger are the Applejacks (‘Tell Me When’), Tom Jones (‘It’s Not Unusual’, ‘Delilah’), P.J. Proby, Mirielle Mathieu, Engelbert Humperdinck (‘The Last Waltz’), Des O’Connor (‘I Pretend’) and the Dave Clark Five (Everybody Knows’, 1967). In 1969, towards the end of their regular partnership, Reed and Mason wrote ‘Love Is All’, a powerful ballad with which Malcolm Roberts triumphed at the San Remo Song Festival. Reed subsequently became one of the best-known faces at annual song festivals all over the world, and his contributions as a conductor, arranger and soloist were recognized in 1977 when he accepted an invitation to become President of The International Federation of Festivals (FIDOF) for one year, and then served as its Ambassador. His work in the late 60s included two songs with Robin Conrad, ‘Don’t Bring Me Your Heartaches’, a hit for Paul And Barry Ryan, and ‘Leave A Little Love’, which received a compelling treatment from Lulu. Reed also collaborated with comedian Jackie Rae for ‘When There’s No You’, another of Humperdinck’s US hits, and ‘Please Don’t Go’, which provided veteran singer Donald Peers with his first chart entry. Both songs were adapted from classical pieces. Reed’s renewed working association with Geoff Stephens in the late 60s and early 70s resulted in ‘There’s A Kind Of Hush’ for Herman’s Hermits, ‘Daughter Of Darkness’ for Tom Jones, and a Leeds United football song. ‘There’s a Kind Of Hush’ was successfully revived by the Carpenters in 1976. Reed and Stephens also won the Silver Prize at the 1973 Tokyo Music Festival for their composition ‘Sandy Sandy’ which was sung by Frankie Stephens. Four years later, Reed and Tony Macaulay won the International Song Contest at Mallorca with ‘You And I’. And in 1980, together with lyricist Roger Greenaway and singer Marilyn Miller, Reed carried off the Grand Prix Award in Seoul for ‘Everytime You Go’. Other artists who have recorded Reed’s songs over the years have included Elvis Presley (‘Girl Of Mine’), Shirley Bassey (‘Does Anybody Miss Me’) and Bing Crosby (‘That’s What Life Is All About’, said to be the last recording he made before his death in 1977). Reed has also composed several film scores including Crossplot, Girl On A Motor Cycle, One More Time, My Mother’s Lovers, Bush Baby, and Creepshow 2, and has written for stage musicals such as The Magic Show, American Heroes and And Then I Wrote. When Reed celebrated 30 years in the music business in 1989, he was estimated to have written more than 2, 000 songs. In the summer of 1994 he produced an album with Max Bygraves and the Children of Arnhem that they hoped would raise money for the old Veterans who were returning to Arnhem in September. The titles included his 1973 composition ‘Lest We Forget’. All his artist’s royalties from this piece are donated in perpetuity to the ‘Lest We Forget’ Association. In the same year he was made a Freeman of the City of London for his ‘contribution to the music industry’. Still resident in Surrey, Reed has executive interests in a Guildford radio station (County Sound) and his daughter Donna’s publishing company, Rebecca Music Ltd. In 1998 Reed was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. In 2004 his musical Beautiful And Damned opened in London. He co-wrote it with Roger Cook and was based on the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
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