Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Music History Monday: McKinley Morganfield, a.k.a. Muddy Waters

McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters, 1913-1983)
McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters, 1913-1983)

We mark the birth on April 4, 1913 – 109 years ago today – of the American blues singer, songwriter, and guitar and harmonica player McKinley Morganfield.  He was born in either Rolling Fork or Jug’s Corner, Mississippi. Known professionally as “Muddy Waters” (as opposed to, say “Crystal Springs”, or “Briny Deep”, or “Silty Delta”, or “Occluded H20”), Maestro Morganfield-slash-Waters died in Westmont, Illinois on April 30, 1983, at the age of 70.  We will get to Muddy Waters (as we will now refer to him) in a bit.  But April 4 is a busy day in music history and thus, I’d like to observe three other date-related events.

Elmer Bernstein (1922-2004)
Elmer Bernstein (1922-2004)

We mark the birth – on April 4, 1922, exactly 100 years ago today – of the American composer Elmer Bernstein, in New York City.  He died in Ojai, California, on August 18, 2004, at the age of 82.

Elmer Bernstein is among my very favorite film and television composers, and he would have been the lead story today if not for the fact that my Music History Monday post for April 3, 2017, already celebrated his birthday.  (I’ll own up to it: April 3 is a quiet day in music history, and in the earlier days of this post, when I couldn’t come up with a good date related item, I’d look to events that occurred on the day before or after.  Thus, in 2017, we celebrated Bernstein’s April 4th birthday on April 3rd.)

That earlier post notwithstanding, Elmer Bernstein was such a fascinating, multi-talented person, and he composed so much music that we know (and love), that a little information about him here and now is most appropriate.  

As a child, Bernstein performed professionally (on Broadway, no less) as an actor and dancer.  He was an award-winning painter and a novelist.  He loved the horses and was a co-owner of the Triad Thoroughbred Racing Stable for many years. He was an outstanding pianist and made his career on stage as a touring concert pianist between 1939 and 1950.  He was a professor of music at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California (USC) and during the 1970s, he was the conductor of the San Fernando Valley Orchestra.

But it was Bernstein’s film, TV, and theater music for which he is remembered today. He composed the music for over 200 films and for hundreds more TV shows.  He composed the fanfare for the National Geographic specials that have been airing since the 1960s. He composed the scores for two Broadway musicals: How Now Dow Jones (1967) and Merlin (1983).  And while even a partial list of Bernstein’s outstanding film scores is lengthy, such a list must be provided in order to get a sense of his tremendous artistic range.  Indulge me: The Man with the Golden Arm (1955); The Ten Commandments (1957); The Sweet Smell of Success (1957); God’s Little Acre (1958); The Buccaneer (1958); The Magnificent Seven (1960); Summer and Smoke (1961); Walk on the Wild Side (1962); Birdman of Alcatraz (1962); To Kill a Mockingbird (1962); The Great Escape (1963); Hud (1963); The Carpetbaggers (1963); The Sons of Katie Elder (1965); The Hallelujah Trail (1965); Return of the Seven (1966); Hawaii (1966); I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968); The Bridge at Remagen (1969); True Grit (1969); Cahill U.S. Marshall (1973); The Shootist (1976); National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978); The Great Santini (1979); Meatballs (1979); Airplane! (1980); The Blues Brothers (1980); The Chosen (1981); An American Werewolf in London (1981); Stripes (1981); Ghostbusters (1984); The Black Cauldron (1985); My Left Foot (1989); The Grifters (1990); The Age of Innocence (1993); The Rainmaker (1997); The Wild Wild West (1999); Bringing Out the Dead (1999); and Far From Heaven (2002).  


For our information, my 2017 post on Elmer Bernstein was entitled “The Other Bernstein.” …

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