IN MEMORIAM

Riz Ortolani (1926- 2014)

Italian film composer Riz Ortolani, who died recently in his villa outside Rome at age 87, was arguably one of the world’s most prolific creators of music for the movies. He scored comedies and dramas, spaghetti westerns and documentaries, erotica and horror, in a composing career that lasted some 50 years. He won two Golden Globe nominations at the 23rd Golden Globes Awards for his score and song for the all-star film The Yellow Rolls Royce in 1966. He went on to win the Globe for his song “Forget Domani.”

Riziero Ortolani was born in Pesaro, Italy in 1926 to a postal worker, a self taught amateur musician who gave his son a violin when Riz was four years’ old. Graduating from a music conservatory, he started his career as a band leader in Italy working for the Air Force and for the national radio (RAI).

During the 1950s, he and his Riz Ortolani Orchestra also played in Los Angeles at the Sunset Strip's famous night club Ciro’s. He dabbled in scoring, but became a full-time film composer in 1962 when he achieved world fame with his score of a most unusual Italian feature pseudo-documentary, Mondo Cane (A Dog's World). The film site imdb.com described it as a “shockumentary consisting of a collection of mostly real archive footage of mankind at its most depraved and perverse, displaying bizarre rites, cruel behavior and bestial violence.” And yet, strangely enough, when words were later added to the melody originally composed for the movie, the resulting song soon became a worldwide romantic hit, one of the top musical love anthems of all times. “Ti Guardero Nel Cuore,” better known as “More,” is still one of the world's top favorites. Just read the lyrics, and you'll hear the haunting melody in your head:

More than the greatest love the world has known
This is the love that I give to you alone
More than the simple words I try to say
I only live to love you more each day.....

“More” brought Ortolani an Oscar nomination and a Grammy, and was soon covered by scores of top singers in a variety of styles, from pop to jazz, soul, rock and lounge. The best known is perhaps Andy Williams' version, followed by other interpretations over the last half a century: Frank Sinatra, Shirley Bassey, Doris Day, Bobby Darin, The Supremes, Roy Orbison, and most recently, Andrea Bocelli.

Over his long career Ortolani composed more than 200 full scores and contributed songs to dozens of other movies, collaborating with many famous Italian, British and American directors, from Vittorio de Sica and Franco Zeffirelli, to Quentin Tarantino for whom he recorded songs for Kill Bill Volumes I and II, Inglourious Basterds, and most recently Django Unchained.

For his legions of fans, his work will live on.

....Longer than always is a long, long, long time
But far beyond forever, you'll be mine
I know I never lived before
And my heart is very sure
No one else could love you more....

Yoram Kahana