Michel Legrand, Oscar-winning composer of Yentl and Thomas Crown Affair, dies at 86

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Michel Legrand, Oscar-winning composer of <em>Yentl</em> and <em>Thomas Crown Affair</em>, dies at 86

Michel Legrand, the Oscar-winning composer behind film scores to Yentl and The Thomas Crown Affair, died Saturday at the age of 86.

A statement shared on the artist’s official Facebook page mentioned Legrand “left us peacefully.”

“He changed the meaning of music in films with his sense of rhythm and his absolute passion for life,” the statement reads. “Goodbye to our dearest Michel Legrand, thank you for 21 years of friendship, partnership and music.”

Born Feb. 24, 1932 in France, Legrand, also a notable jazz pianist, went on to win three Oscars, five Grammys, one Golden Globe, and one BAFTA Award over the course of his illustrious career.

He won statuettes from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for his work on 1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair (starring Steve McQueen), 1971’s Summer of ’42 (starring Jennifer O’Neill), and 1983’s Yentl (starring Barbra Streisand). He was nominated for 10 others. Legrand also composed scores for The Three Musketeers (1973), the James Bond film Never Say Never (1983), Wuthering Heights (1970), and Le Mans (1971), in addition to winning Grammys for his jazz work like the 1975 album with Phil Woods, Images.

Legrand’s last film score was completed for The Other Side of the Wind, the Orson Welles film finally released on Netflix in 2018. The pair worked together 1974’s F for Fake and the director wanted another Legrand jazz score, the way the musician tells it. “I am proud to be the link between these two Welles films,” he told Variety last year. “I take it as a gift from Orson, through the clouds.”

Legrand last performed with the Paris Philharmonic in December and he was scheduled to perform again in February. Claire de Castellane, a musician and producer who organized a series of solo piano concerts by Legrand, told the Associated Press that performing up to the end “was a very beautiful way to say goodbye.”

“He was not afraid of death, he talked about it,” she said. “He said it made him nervous, but it didn’t frighten him.”

“I want to try to explain what happened, to tell the audience what I’ve done,” Legrand told The Guardian during one of his final interviews, published in September. “Every movie that I’ve scored, I’ve tried to be original, to be different from what we’re used to listening to. When I write music, my music talks. It’s not a music that says nothing, a tapestry where nothing happens, like most of the composers. I think I’ve been an adventurer — in life, in my work, too.”

Tributes to Legrand have been pouring in from the likes of Streisand and Tony Bennett.

“His beautiful music will live on forever,” the Yentl star tweeted. “I will treasure the memories I have of working with him.”

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