Last in 1970
|Birth name||Hans Last|
|Also known as||Hansi|
|Born||17 April 1929|
|Died||9 June 2015 86) (aged|
Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
|Labels||Polydor, PolyGram, Universal, Eagle Rock, Warner Bros.|
James Last (German pronunciation: [tʃeɪms last, ; dʃeɪms lɑːst] born Hans Last; 17 April 1929 – 9 June 2015), also known as Hansi, was a German composer and big band leader of the James Last Orchestra. Initially a jazz bassist (Last won the award for "best bassist" in Germany in each of the years 1950–1952 ), his trademark "happy music" made his numerous albums best-sellers in Germany and the United Kingdom, with 65 of his albums reaching the charts in the UK alone. His composition "Happy Heart" became an international success in interpretations by Andy Williams and Petula Clark.
Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.
A big band is a type of musical ensemble that usually consists of ten or more musicians with four sections: saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and a rhythm section. Big bands originated during the early 1910s and dominated jazz in the early 1940s when swing was most popular. The term "big band" is also used to describe a genre of music. One problem with this usage is that it overlooks the variety of music played by these bands.
The James Last Orchestra was a German/multinational big-band orchestra. The orchestra was established in 1964 as a studio orchestra, led by jazz musician Hans Last. The orchestra started touring in 1968 and has been very popular worldwide. From 1965, Polydor Records named him 'James Last', as they thought the name 'James' would be more suitable for the international market.
Last is reported to have sold an estimated 200 million albums worldwide in his lifetime (figures vary widely, for example British Hit Singles & Albums (2006) reports 100 million at that time ), of which 80 million were sold by 1973 - and won numerous awards including 200 gold and 14 platinum discs in Germany, the International MIDEM Prize at MIDEM in 1969, and West Germany's highest civilian award, the Bundesverdienstkreuz (Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany) in 1978. His album This Is James Last remained a UK best-seller for 48 weeks, and his song "Games That Lovers Play" has been covered over a hundred times. Last undertook his final tour months before his death at age 86, upon discovering in September 2014 that an illness (the exact illness was never disclosed ) had worsened. His final UK performance was his 90th at London's Royal Albert Hall, more than any other performer except Eric Clapton.
British Hit Singles & Albums was a music reference book originally published in the United Kingdom by the publishing arm of the Guinness breweries, Guinness Superlatives. Later editions were published by Guinness World Records and HiT Entertainment. It listed all the singles and albums featured in the Top 75 pop charts in the UK. In 2004 the book became an amalgamation of two earlier Guinness publications, originally known as British Hit Singles and British Hit Albums. The publication of this amalgamation ceased in 2006. A new version of the book published by Virgin and entitled The Virgin Book of British Hit Singles, first published in November 2008.
West Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, was a country in Central Europe that existed from 1949 to 1990, a period referred to by historians as the Bonn Republic, an era when the western portion of Germany was part of the Western bloc during the Cold War. It was created during the Allied occupation of Germany in 1949 after World War II, established from eleven states formed in the three Allied zones of occupation held by the United States, the United Kingdom and France. Its capital was the city of Bonn.
"Games That Lovers Play" is a popular song composed by James Last which became a hit for multiple artists in 1966 and 1967. The song has been recorded more than 100 times.
Last's trademark sound employed big band arrangements of well-known tunes with a jaunty dance beat, often heavy on bass and brass.Despite at times being derided by critics and purists as the "king of elevator music" or "acoustic porridge", his style and music were popular in numerous countries and cultures, including Japan, the former Soviet Union, the USA and UK, and his native Germany, where it became "the archetypal soundtrack of any German cellar bar party", and made him the "most commercially successful bandleader" of the second half of the 20th century.
Porridge is a food commonly eaten as a breakfast cereal dish, made by boiling ground, crushed or chopped starchy plants—typically grain—in water or milk. It is often cooked or served with added flavorings such as sugar, honey, (dried) fruit or syrup to make a sweet cereal, or it can be mixed with spices and/or vegetables to make a savoury dish. It is usually served hot in a bowl, depending on its consistency. Oat porridge, or oatmeal, is one of the most common types of porridge. Gruel is a thinner version of porridge.
The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.
Last was born to Louis and Martha Last in Bremen, Germany.He was the younger brother of Robert Last and Werner Last (aka Kai Warner). His father was an official at the postal and public works department of the city of Bremen and Last grew up in the suburb of Sebaldsbrück. He began studying the piano at age 10, though he could play simple tunes such as the folk song "Hänschen klein" when he was 9. His first music teacher felt he lacked any musical talent. Last started playing more actively with his second tutor and switched to the double bass as a teenager. His home city of Bremen was bombed heavily during World War II, and he ran messages to air defence command posts during the raids. He entered the Bückeburg Military Music School of the German Wehrmacht at the age of 14 and learned to play bass, piano and tuba.
The City Municipality of Bremen is a Hanseatic city in northwestern Germany, which belongs to the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, a federal state of Germany.
Robert Last was a German drummer and bandleader.
Kai Warner was the stage name of Werner Last, a German bandleader and musician, and the brother of James Last and Robert Last.
After the end of the war, he joined Hans Günther Oesterreich's Radio Bremen Dance Orchestra. In 1948 he became the leader of the Last-Becker Ensemble, which performed for seven years. He was voted as the best bassist in the country in a German jazz poll for 1950, 1951 and 1952. When the Last-Becker Ensemble disbanded, he became the in-house arranger for Polydor Records, as well as a number of European radio stations. During the next decade he helped arrange hits for artists such as Helmut Zacharias, Freddy Quinn, Lolita, Alfred Hause and Caterina Valente.
Radio Bremen (RB), Germany's smallest public radio and television broadcaster, is the legally mandated broadcaster for the city-state Free Hanseatic City of Bremen. With its headquarters sited in Bremen, Radio Bremen is a member of the consortium of German public broadcasting organizations, ARD.
Last-Becker Ensemble was a German jazz group that was popular in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The band was formed in 1948 by James Last (bass) and included his brothers Werner Last and Robert Last (drums). The six piece band was also included Karl-Heinz Becker (saxophone), Heinz Schultze (guitar) and Helmut Zacharias (violin). In 1950, James was voted as the best jazz bassist in Germany an award he won again in 1951 and 1952. The band, which was an offshoot of the Radio Bremen dance orchestra conducted by Hans-Gunther Oesterreich, broke up in 1956.
Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States. It originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".
Last first released albums in the U.S. under the titles The American Patrol on Warner Bros. Records around 1964. He also released a series of nine albums in a series called Classics Up To Date which served up arrangements of classical melodies with strings, rhythm and wordless chorus from the mid-1960s until the early 1980s. Last's 1965 album, Non-Stop Dancing, was a recording of brief renditions of popular songs, all tied together by an insistent dance beat and crowd noises. It was a hit and helped make him a major European star. Over the next four decades, Last released over 190 records, including several more volumes of Non-Stop Dancing. On these records, he varied his formula by adding different songs from different countries and genres, as well as guest performers like Richard Clayderman and Astrud Gilberto.
Non Stop Dancing '65 is a 1965 album by the James Last Band, conducted and arranged by James Last, engineered by Peter Klemt, recorded at Polydor studios in Hamburg, Germany.
Richard Clayderman is a French pianist who has released numerous albums including the compositions of Paul de Senneville and Olivier Toussaint, instrumental renditions of popular music, rearrangements of movie soundtracks, ethnic music, and easy-listening arrangements of popular works of classical music.
Astrud Gilberto is a Brazilian samba and bossa nova singer. She became well known in the 1960s for her performance of the song "The Girl from Ipanema".
He also had his own successful television series throughout the 1970s with guests including ABBA and Lynsey de Paul which was screened across Europe. Last's trademark sound employed big band arrangements of well-known tunes with a jaunty dance beat, often heavy on bass and brass.
Though his concerts and albums were consistently successful, especially in the UK, where he had 52 hit albums between 1967 and 1986, which made him second only to Elvis Presley in charting records,he had relatively few hit singles. In the UK, his only chart singles were "The Seduction", a cover version of the theme from American Gigolo (1980) composed by Giorgio Moroder, and "Biscaya" from the album Biscaya. His single "Mornings at Seven" became a familiar tune in Britain after the BBC used it as the theme music for an ice skating program. It was released on 7" vinyl in 1968 and has been included on By Request and Eighty Not Out.
In the US, where "The Seduction" became a Top 40 hit, peaking at No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 22 on the Adult Contemporary chart in May 1980. Last was somewhat more successful on the singles charts. In 2003, his song "Einsamer Hirte" (The Lonely Shepherd) which features the pan flute of Gheorghe Zamfir appeared on the soundtrack of the Quentin Tarantino movie Kill Bill Volume 1 .
He won numerous popular and professional awards, including Billboard magazine's Star of the Year trophy in 1976, and was honoured for lifetime achievement with the German ECHO prize in 1994. His song "Music from Across the Way" (recorded by Andy Williams in 1972) is a melody with a classical feeling and was a worldwide hit; it was the only other Last single apart from "The Seduction" to reach the U.S. Hot 100, where it peaked at No. 84 (and No. 18 on the Adult Contemporary chart) in late 1971. (His only other U.S. chart single was a double-sided entry featuring remakes of the Village Stompers' "Washington Square" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary", which reached No. 22 on the Adult Contemporary chart in early 1971).
Last was awarded the Carl Alan Award by Princess Margaret for being the leader of the most popular dance band of 1981. In Canada, he had three hits on the RPM Top Singles charts ("El Cóndor Pasa" at No. 46, "Music from Across the Way" at No. 28, "The Seduction" at No. 32) and four on the Adult Contemporary/MOR charts ("Music from..." at No. 2, "Heart of Gold" at No. 17, "The Seduction" at No. 36, "Reach for a Star" at No. 20).
Songs composed by Last which achieved success in the US include "Happy Heart" and "Music from Across the Way", both recorded by Andy Williams, "Games That Lovers Play", recorded by Eddie Fisher, and "Fool", recorded by Elvis Presley. By the time of his farewell tour in the spring of 2015, Last was reported to have sold well over 100 million albums.
His signature piece was "Orange Blossom Special". He played this at almost every concert. He encouraged the band to have fun with it and sometimes the band members would go into the audience and make a conga line with duck head umbrellas. It was always a popular piece at his concerts.
In February 2015, after almost 50 years on tour, James Last announced that he was finally bidding adieu to the stage. The last concert of his Non Stop Music James Last in Concert 2015 farewell tour took place in Lanxess Arena in Cologne on 26 April 2015.
Last married his first wife, Waltraud, in 1955; they had two children, Ronald and Caterina.After 42 years of marriage, Waltraud died in 1997. Two years later, Last married Christine Grundner from Bavaria. Last and Christine divided their time between homes in Florida and Hamburg. He gave much credit to Christine and son Ronald for help with his music.
Despite being the "most commercially successful bandleader" of the second half of the 20th century,Last's easygoing spending and "incompetent" financial advice led him at one stage to the "brink of ruin" financially.
In September 2014 Last learned that a "life threatening" illness had worsened (the exact details were never disclosed), and in early 2015 he announced his retirement from touring would take place following a final "goodbye tour", which commenced in Germany and ended in London.Last died less than three months later, on 9 June 2015 in Florida at the age of 86.
Writing in The Independent , Spencer Leigh suggested that Last's Non-Stop Dancing albums "paved the way for disco and dance mixes". Asked if he minded being labelled the "King of Corn", Last had replied "No, because it is true."
List of awards:
Productions of James Last: (As Hans Last, Orlando and James Last)
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