There are a
lot of really outstanding but underrated composers in Hollywood and
Bill Conti is certainly one of them. His talent for writing big
tuneful orchestral music combined with his ability to merge it with
elements of contemporary rock and pop music lead to the creation of
his very unique musical voice. It is impossible to imagine films
like Rocky (1976), The Right Stuff (1983) and
Karate Kid (1984) without that very special Conti-sound.
Bill Conti was
born in 1942 in Rhode Island. He learned playing the piano very
early from his father and studied composition at the Louisiana State
University where he also performed with the school's symphony
orchestra and spent the evenings playing in jazz clubs. After he
earned his Master's Degree he left the USA behind and moved to Italy
in 1967. He quickly got his first scoring assignments for films
there, which lead to swinging jazzy scores like Juliette de Sade
(1969). In 1970, he scored the Academy Award winning film Il
Giardino Dei Finzi-Contini which carried his work to the
attention of international audiences.
brought him back to the states where he scored several feature
films, including the academy award winning drama Harry And Tonto
(1974). His career was only about to sky-rocket in 1976 when he
scored Sylvester Stallone's boxing drama Rocky. The success
of his music for the film, including the world famous song "Gonna
Fly Now" which sold platinum, earned Conti his first academy award
nomination and re-defined the way of scoring sport movies. A string
of scoring assignments for rather mediocre films followed and he
became the composer of choice for Stallone-films like F.I.S.T.
(1978) or Victory (1981) and continued his success on the
Rocky-sequels. In 1980, he was honoured to replace an
unavailable John Barry on the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only
which earned him a second Academy Award nomination for the film's
It took two
more years until Bill Conti finally won the statue for The Right
Stuff (1983) which featured a sweeping patriotic score.
Conti is hardly getting any new scoring assignments anymore except
for TV features while his work in Hollywood is limited to cameo
appearances as Conductor at the Academy Award ceremonies and being
insulted by Julia 'primadonna' Roberts ("Stickman!"). Maybe the lack
of sufficient score releases is one reason why most of his excellent
work from the 70's and 80's is largely forgotten these days.
However, 2005 can be considered as the year of Conti's rediscovery:
Five of his scores found their way on CD which helped to correct a
major film music injustice that made Bill Conti one of the most
underappreciated of recent Hollywood composers.