French composer Francis Lai, who was born on April 26, 1932, in Nice, France, won the Golden Globe award for Best Original Score – Motion Picture for the romantic classic Love Story in 1971.
The film’s theme, “Where Do I Begin” was a hit single for Andy Williams and the soundtrack album was No. 2 on the Billboard album charts.
Lai also successfully recorded the song himself with a full orchestra and also by Henry Mancini and Shirley Bassey. His Love Story theme was heard in the 1978 Love Story sequel, Oliver’s Story, although the main score was composed by Lee Holdridge.
The son of market gardeners of Italian origin, Lai was fascinated by music at an early age and played first in his local orchestras. He played the accordion and the piano.
Lai left home while in his 20s when he met singer Claude Goaty. He followed her to Paris where he became part of the lively Montmartre music scene. He met French poet-songwriter Bernard Dimey with whom Lai composed his first song. Their songwriting partnership would extend to a hundred more songs.
After a short period with the orchestra of Michel Magne, Lai became the accompanist for France’s national chanteuse, Edith Piaf, and also composed songs for her.
He met filmmaker Claude Lelouch in 1965 and was hired to help write the score for the romantic drama A Man And A Woman which was released in 1966. The film was an international success and one song, his composition, "Aujourd'hui C'est Toi" (“Today It's You”), is probably best known in the UK as the theme music for the long-running BBC current affairs documentary series Panorama.
This success opened more doors for Lai and gave him more work not only in France but also in Great Britain and the United States.
Lai’s career spanned 40 years. He wrote many more movie scores and music for television programs. His movie scores included Mayerling (1968), Three into Two Won’t Go (1969), Hannibal Brooks (1969), Emmanuelle 2 (1975), Bilitis (1977), International Velvet (1978) and Edith et Marcel (1983).
He wrote the music for the Perry Como hit, “I Think of You.” with lyrics by Rod McKuen.
Lai died on November 7, 2018, at his home in Paris at the age of 86.