The composer Jerry Goldsmith

Jerry Goldsmith Biography

Jerry Goldsmith was born on February 10th 1929 in Pasadena California and grew up in Los Angeles. Originally intending to become a concert hall composer, he soon realised that the infrequency of concert hall commissions would never satisfy his hunger to write music. Jerry Goldsmith began studying piano at the age of 6 and by the age of 14 was studying composition, theory and counterpoint with Jacob Gimpel and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. He also became acquainted with legendary composer Miklos Rosza and attended his classes in film composition, at the University of Southern California. It was Rosza’s own score to Spellbound and the film’s star Ingrid Bergman, that had captivated Goldsmith back in 1945 and clearly influenced the composer’s interest in music for film.

In 1950 Goldsmith was employed as a clerk typist in the music department at CBS. There he was given his first assignments as a composer for live radio shows such as Romance and CBS Radio Workshop and progressing on to live TV shows such as Climax andPlayhouse 90. He stayed with CBS until 1960, having already scored the cult sci-fi show The Twilight Zone. Then was hired by Revue Studios to score their Thriller series, which lead on to further TV commissions including the famous Dr Kildare theme and theme and episodes for The Man From U.N.C.L.E..

In 1962 Goldsmith was awarded his first Oscar nomination for his acclaimed score to the poorly received John Huston biopic of Freud. At the same time, he met and became acquainted with the influential film composer Alfred Newman. Newman, recognising Goldsmith’s talents, influenced Universal into hiring him to score the acclaimed Kirk Douglas western Lonely Are The Bravein 1963. From there Goldsmith established himself as a contract composer for 20th Century Fox, quickly re-defining the modern film score. Along with his close friend Alex North, Goldsmith established himself as a leading name in American film music, and by the beginning of the 1970’s the composer had already written a number of landmarks scores that cemented his position and his reputation. These included A Patch Of Blue, Lilies Of The Field, The Sand Pebbles, The Planet Of The Apes, The Blue Max andPatton.

During the 70’s Goldsmith augmented his movie scoring with a plethora of TV assignments and remains one of the few composers to juggle film and TV scoring successfully. This included the critically acclaimed and Emmy winning score to the first TV epicQBVII as well as the popular theme and early episode scores for the TV series The Waltons. Hungry to work, the early part of the decade proved to be one of the composer’s most successful periods with a combination of gritty thrillers and prestigious assignments like The Wind And The Lion, Chinatown, The Wild Rovers and Papillon. The late 70’s brought Goldsmith his lone Oscar for the avant-garde and ground breaking score to The Omen. Never had a film score been so critical to the movie’s atmosphere and dramatic power.

The decade finished with a series of the composer’s most popular crowd pleasing scores, from the military action of The Swarm, a sumptuous English caper score for The Great Train Robbery and the terrifying masterwork Alien. And of course what is generally regarded as Goldsmith’s greatest work -Star Trek The Motion Picture. Here Goldsmith was tasked with re-inventing a franchise and creating a brand new theme. Goldsmith remarked that the theme was the toughest he ever wrote and remains a remarkable achievement. At the behest of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry it later became the signature theme for the popular Star Trek spin off The Next Generation. In 1995 Goldsmith would write a new theme for Star Trek Voyager, a further spin-off. Interestingly Goldsmith’s association with Star Trek may have started even earlier. In interview Goldsmith revealed he had been approached by Roddenberry back in the sixties to write the original TV series theme, but due to scheduling was unable to do so.

The 80’s began with the TV epic Masada in which the composer scored the first four hours and the rousing main theme. Handing the remaining four hours to friend and fellow composer Morton Stevens. Goldsmith also completed the Omen trilogy with an awe inspiring work to The Final Conflict in which he completely transformed the choral and orchestral style he developed for the first two movies into a score that was as terrifying as it was beautiful.

Goldsmith’s abilities at being a musical chameleon served him well throughout his career and just as the decades before brought dramatic changes in style the 80’s also saw further development and transformations. Notably with the robust and action packed First Blood and its exciting sequel scores; Rambo First Blood Part IIand the epic third score to Rambo III in which the composer bids a fond farewell to the Rambo character. Then came the animated splendour of TheSecret Of Nimh as well as critically acclaimed works to Under Fire, Poltergeist and the orchestral/electronic triumph to the sporting drama Hoosiers. The mid 80’s proved to be a mix of comedy and adventure scoring for big budget fare that included a series of assignments for Joe Dante, most notably the box office smash Gremlins, to cult hits Supergirl, Twilight Zone The Movie and a rousing sequel score to Star Trek V. This decade also saw further electronic development that had begun back in the 60’s with Freud. In 1985 the composer tackled his first all electronic score to Michael Crichton’s minor sci-fi thriller Runaway, and later followed it up with courtroom thriller Criminal Law and an un-used score to Alien Nation. Goldsmith finally fused orchestra with electronics proper in the 90’s and remains one of the few silver age composers to spend so much time cultivating the technology without betraying the traditional orchestral world.

In the 90’s Goldsmith started the decade with his action opus Total Recall. Goldsmith’s mammoth score apparently is nothing short of a symphony and remains the defining moment in action film scoring, and is now regarded as a classic of the genre. He also became friends with the film’s acclaimed director, Paul Verhoeven and went on to collaborate on the difficult assignment Basic Instinct. The assignment remains a rare moment in the cut throat business of Hollywood where a director showed total commitment to his composer and worked closely with him to encourage Goldsmith to fashion one of his most memorable scores. The decade also brought another of the composer’s finest works, the beautiful score to The Russia House for director Fred Schepisi. Interestingly Goldsmith’sRussia House theme had originally been composed for his aborted score for Wall Street and then tried out for another aborted effort Alien Nation. The theme finally found its rightful home though. Goldsmith’s other noteworthy assignments during this decade included the critically acclaimed score to the minor true life sporting drama Rudy along with further Star Trek sequels, action epics such as Air Force One andThe Mummy, as well as more challenging assignments such as the big screen adaptation of Six Degrees Of Separation (Fred Schepisi) and the critically acclaimed thriller LA Confidential (Curtis Hanson).

Jerry Goldsmith began the new millennium with a further collaboration with Dutch director Paul Verhoeven on the summer 2000 sci-fi thriller Hollow Man where Goldsmith’s genuine love and affection for the director shone through with an enormous and complex thriller score. The next two years featured The Last Castlewhere Goldsmith’s moving theme was adopted to remember the victims of September 11th 2001. Followed by the box office hit The Sum Of All Fearsfeaturing an equally moving score. And a second outing with exciting director Lee Tamahori for the Morgan Freeman thriller Along Came A Spider. By this time the composer’s health began to take its toll and prevented Goldsmith from working as much as he once did but he finished his work on the Star Trek franchise withStar Trek Nemesis, making this his third collaboration with editor turned director Stuart Baird.

Goldsmith’s final scores were for friends. In the case of Timeline directed by The Omen’s Richard Donner. Sadly a score that was not used in the finished film due to dramatic changes in the final cut of the movie. Donner tried to secure Goldsmith again to rewrite the score but the composer was unable to do so. Fittingly for his final score he was with Joe Dante, another close friend, for the comedy Looney Tunes Back In Action. Jerry Goldsmith passed away on July 21st 2004 peacefully in his sleep after a long and gallant battle against cancer.

This info was brought to you by Jason Needs from his awesome tribute to Jerry Goldsmith website http://jerrygoldsmithonline.com/index.htm

I met Jerry on ST First Contact thru my friend Mark Banning who was working on the recording of the soundtrack for Cresendo records. Jerry came over to say hello and invited me to stay a while and watch the orchestra record some of the sessions. I couldn’t believe what a very kind and gracious man he is, Very funny too! Thats great I said and off he went out to the podium on the sound stage. The set up is a recording room with all the equipment and sound boards, An extra little corner was set up for a musician that add’s the electronic sounds. World famous recording engineer and long time associate and good friend of Jerry’s, Bruce Botnick manned the board. There is a huge window looking from this room into the sound stage where the orchestra is set up in a half circle around the podium. above this window and also behind Jerry is a projection screen that will show the scene that the music is being recorded for. From my pov there was a single frame that said “scene missing” showing on the screens. A couple of moments later the go ahead was given and jerry raised the petton and the strings started to play in an ascending and climactic rhythm. the screen proceeded to show the scene missing frame and a few moments later Jerrys ays hold it and everyone stops playing. He points to the right of the orchestra and says I would like you to hold that cord a little longer before it fades out, then he points to the left and says lets pull the harp out for the next set of pages and you pick up at,, and he gives a # that was set as like a chapter the timing count. They start again and record the sequence again,,,,, Bruce stops the orchestra this time and asks for a technical component to be re-calibrated, A few moments later they start again and continue to play the entire sequence. It was amazing to See the orchestra play this unbelievable theme and watch the maestro conduct the musicians. Again from my POV this was one of the most beautiful pieces of music that I have ever heard. I never saw anything on the screens that indicated what scene it was for but it was incredibly beautiful!!. I had to race back to my office before I was missed and once there I had to tell the story of watching Jerry work. Doug Whispered to me after,,,,,PSSSST let me know next time you go so I can sneak over too!!!! But don’t tell Mike!!! HAAAAA! Hope there is no back lash to this one!!! Anyways the next day I put together a collection of the First Contact drawings and ran back over to the sound stage and sadly it was the final day of recording. When I walked in they were just recording the end and credit themes!!! I watched this with awe and It was truly the magic of the movies. I met Jerry’s son Joel a few moments later and he himself was writing music for the film with Jerry. What a great collaboration between father and son. Jerry came out and said, HEY how did you like yesterdays session??? It was hard to find the right words and mannerisms without going complete GEEK!!! I gave him that stack of drawings and he looked at everyone and had something to say about each frame. He was talking about his Star Trek room at his house and that he was very excited about having these for his collection, and with that he grabbed a sheet of music and signed it and said; here’s from one fan to another. That was one of the greatest days of all of my hollywood memories. First Contact came out a few months later and the whole art Department got tickets for The chinese theater in Hollywood,,,,, I couldn’t wait to see where that string piece was going to fall in the film. Before I moved to Hollywood I would go to the movies and you would see some incredible scene or space ship that had an awesome piece of music attached to it as a theme, and I used to think that that would be the coolest thing to be able to create something that had that magical score. By the end of the movie that little dream came true. The scene was Zephram Cochran and the residents of Phoenix town all come out of the bar to see A light in the clouds. There is a narrative by Patrick Stewart building the scene and the the Vulcan ship drops threw the clouds to that incredible string piece I saw Jerry record!!!! OH my gosh I was speechless!!! When the DVD came out I watched that scene at least 50 times!!!   I could have retired from Hollywood that day and been completely geek filled and satisfied forever!!! HAAA! well I just snapped out of my daydream so with that here are some scenes and art from that awesome moment!!!

click below for a wonderful tribute to Jerry


the lander " T-Plahna Hath"

the lander " T-Plahna Hath"

what is it???  ET???

what is it??? ET???

Is it the mothership???

Is it the mothership???

Is it Underdog???

Is it Underdog???

NO it's the T plahna hath!!!

NO it's the T plahna hath!!!

Wow this was such a cool scene!!!

Wow this was such a cool scene!!!

What is Geordi looking at!

What is Geordi looking at!


And the landing accompanied by Jerry's elegant score!

And the landing accompanied by Jerry's elegant score!

26 Responses to “The composer Jerry Goldsmith”

  1. 1 johneaves
    April 20, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Sorry all, I fixed the cropping issue but lost all 11 comments, SO very sorry, If you want to comment again go ahead and I again apologize for the foul up!!!

  2. 2 Freak
    April 20, 2009 at 10:34 am

    That a great tribute to a great man. He will truly be missed.
    I still can’t believe he only got one Oscar.

    You know a director may direct a movie, but it was Jerry’s Score that really brought the films to life.

    • 3 johneaves
      April 20, 2009 at 10:40 am

      I have been a Jerry fan since I was very young. Those early scores of his, Patton Tora, Tora, Tora, The Chairman, Sand Peebles, are unbelievable pieces of music. Why he only won one Oscar is a complete mystery to me. After getting to know him a bit,I have come to the conclusion that he wrote music from his heart and I don’t think awards won or not would ever alter that passion!!!

  3. 4 Pacal
    April 20, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Thanks for sharing John, I think both the die hard enthusiasts and non fans can appreciate his tremendous contribution to Star Trek.

  4. 5 johneaves
    April 20, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Your so right. As much as I love his Star Trek themes. most of my favorites are for other things, The rejected score for Legend is one, Innerspace, the Burbs,and one of my favorites Matinee!!!

  5. 6 evil_genius_180
    April 20, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Damn, I read that before it was all cropped nicely and had to guess at some of the words. 😉

    That’s a great tribute to Jerry, he was one of the best. Whenever I was watching a movie and I was listening to the cool music and saw his name in the credits, I knew why. If it was up to me, he’d have had a collection of Oscars instead of just 1, but it wasn’t up to me.

    I also like your story. If I’d met the man, I don’t think I’d have been able to keep my inner geek in check. I’d probably have started humming the TMP theme or something corny like that.

    • 7 johneaves
      April 20, 2009 at 10:49 am

      It was hard to control the high geek factor, and on top of it all Alexander Courage was there and he came over and said HI!!!

      • 8 evil_genius_180
        April 20, 2009 at 7:47 pm

        Alexander Courage was there too? Yeah, I would have probably been on Geek Factor 9 and the security guards would have had to carry me away. 😉

  6. April 20, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Jerry Goldsmith! I bought all of his Star Trek-Scores and I also enjoyed his other scores I came across.

    The vulcan ship is a very striking design. It is not only elegant, its rather unconventional alignment makes a true treasure. The complex form and the interaction of different “layers” of elements must have been a challenge. I’m very impressed by the quality of the perspective / the shown angle.

    • 10 johneaves
      April 20, 2009 at 12:24 pm

      Thanks, M Max, that one was a monster!!! My illustrating abilities were pretty shallow on F.C.and everything in the show was kind of a big mental effort! I just about lost it with trying to do the Vulcan Lander so I went home on a Friday and made a reference model I could use to get the complex curves down on paper. I’ll go and make a post these pictures for you know.

  7. 11 DeanneM
    April 20, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    So you lost my comment where I say I think Geordi is looking at a bunny that just moved in the bushes. 🙂

    I can’t even imagine what it would be like to listen in person to the orchestra recording that fantastic score…then seeing it after all that!!! I can almost feel it…you know what I mean? Unbelievable with all that talent, and he was such a prolific composer – just one Oscar?! Just unbelievable!! He had a very strong influence in the music and how it grew with the movies…I wonder what Star Wars would have sounded like (or any movie for that matter, including TMP), if Jerry hadn’t made his mark on the industry.

    I think I’m not the only one who is glad you didn’t retire from Hollywood that day! The Trekverse would look a a bit different, and I’m certain, not as good!!

  8. 12 Jay
    April 20, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    What a fantastic story to read, so I can only imagine how it must have been to have *lived* it! Thanks for sharing that with us, John. I’ve heard different things about Jerry from different people, and its great to hear how gracious he was toward you. And a Star Trek room in his house – I can’t even imagine!

    It says a lot about what a geeky kid I was and what an amazing piece of music Jerry wrote, that when I was 7 years old, I had a copy of the STTMP soundtrack on vinyl that I literally listened to over and over again. The late ’70s and the early ’80s were such a great period for film music and I feel lucky that I got into movies in those years.

    And an FYI, which most people probably already know about, but Jerry’s complete score for STTMP plus some unused alternate and early takes are out there in the ether of the interweb and well worth tracking down.

    • 13 johneaves
      April 20, 2009 at 3:52 pm

      I think we both burned that record up. Spock’s jet pack theme was a big fav. I have a couple of copies of that complete double disc TMP score and it is such a beautiful piece!

      • 14 Jay
        April 20, 2009 at 3:55 pm

        Here’s a piece of humiliating geekery that I will share only with you, John 😉 When I was in first grade, I would sometimes wear my backpack outside at recess so I could pretend I was Spock with that thruster suit jetpack on my back. One of the teachers asked me why I had my backpack because it wasn’t time to go home yet, and I yelled “Leave me alone! I’m Mister Spock!” Sad but true.

      • 15 johneaves
        April 20, 2009 at 4:03 pm

        That’s awesome!!! I had a ten speed bike and if I put it in the low gears I would be going as fast as the bike could go but the pedaling looked like slow motion,,, When I did this I would hum the 6 million dollar man theme in my head!!,,, AHHH we all sure had some fun memories, Thanks for sharing your secret!!!

  9. 16 DeanneM
    April 20, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Jay, as long as you’re sharing stories and you’ve mentioned your sound effects on Doug’s blog…let’s hear the jet pack!!

    Oh, and John, you have sound effects too!! If only we could do audio on here. 😀

  10. 18 DeanneM
    April 20, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    BTW – I got to read the four ST Countdown comics today, with VRRRRRRM and SSHUKK and such “sound effects” 🙂 Great prelude to the movie, with all the backstory!!

  11. 19 FSL
    April 20, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    The first Contact score really ahd a magical, sentimental feel to it. Really moving score, especially the them and the Vulcan scenes.

    • 20 DeanneM
      April 20, 2009 at 6:48 pm

      Apologies! Back on track…I couldn’t agree with you more…magical is a good word for it. Jerry had a way with painting the scene with music!

  12. April 20, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    “The late 70’s brought Goldsmith his lone Oscar for the avant-garde and ground breaking score to The Omen. Never had a film score been so critical to the movie’s atmosphere and dramatic power.”

    I think that’s pretty accurate! 🙂

  13. 23 Matt Boardman
    April 20, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Jerry Goldsmith…where to start? The man was amazing and I cried the day that I found out about his passing. So much talent wrapped up inside an exceptional man! I am so glad that he shared it with us all and without knowing us, touched us with his musical gift.

    I can only imagine what it would have been like to see that scene at the end with that score! Thanks for sharing this awesome experience with us! It was like being there! 🙂

    • 24 johneaves
      April 21, 2009 at 8:19 am

      I did too I was at Comicon and Daren Dochterman ran up and told me the horrible news, The whole weekend was spent in sadness of his passing!

  14. 25 1701dfan
    April 20, 2009 at 10:29 pm


    I miss Jerry Goldsmith’s music. He was one in a million, a legend.
    He is sorely missed.
    No Trek film or series will ever be the same without his music.

    Jerry stands along side Gene and Majel Barret Roddenberry, Jimmy Dohan, DeForrest Kelly and Mark Leonard in the hallowed halls of Star Trek lore. Gone, sorely missed, but never ever forgotten.

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April 2009

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