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Johnny Mandel (1925–2020), songwriter who composed “M*A*S*H” theme song

by Linnea Crowther

Johnny Mandel was an Oscar- and Grammy-winning songwriter who composed songs including the “M*A*S*H” theme (“Suicide Is Painless”) and “The Shadow of Your Smile.”

Composer and arranger

Mandel won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1965 for “The Shadow of Your Smile,” the theme song to “The Sandpiper.” He also won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year for his composition. In 1970, he composed the theme song to the movie “M*A*S*H,” which was again used as an instrumental version in the TV series inspired by the movie. Mandel wrote the scores to films including “The Americanization of Emily,” “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming,” and “Caddyshack.” Also an arranger, he won Grammy Awards for his arrangements of Quincy Jones’ song “Velas” and for Natalie Cole’s (1950 – 2015) 1991 duet with her late father, Nat King Cole (1919 – 1965), “Unforgettable.”

Mandel on how he wrote a melody

“I’ve always loved key changes or lines and chords that sounded like key changes. That’s where my ear takes me when I’m writing a song. You have to push yourself to go somewhere else after eight bars. I was always doing that instrumentally.” —from a 2008 interview with JazzWax


What people said about him

Full obituary: Variety

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