James Last (Hans Last, * April 17, 1929 in Bremen, † June, 9, 2015 in Florida) was a German composer and big band leader with a large fan base in Europe and world-wide. Last's trademark was arranging pop hits in a big-band style; his series of "party albums" is equally well-known. Over the course of his career, he has sold well over 100 million albums.
Last learned how to play piano as child, switching to bass as a teenager. He joined Hans-Gunther Oesterreich's Radio Bremen Dance Orchestra in 1946, when he was 17 years old. In 1948, he became the leader of the Becker-Last Ensemble, which performed for seven years. During that time, he was voted as the best bassist in the country by a German jazz poll for three consecutive years, from 1950-1952. After the disbandment of the Becker-Last Ensemble, he became the in-house arranger for Polydor Records, as well as for a number of European radio stations. For the next decade, he helped arrange hits for artists like Helmut Zacharias and Caterina Valente.
Last released his first album "Non-Stop Dancing" in 1965. The record of brief renditions of popular songs, all tied together by an insistent dance beat and joyous crowd noises. It was a hit and helped make him a major European star. Over the next four decades, Last has released over 190 records, including several more volumes of Non-Stop Dancing. On these records, he varies his formula by adding different songs from different countries and genres, as well as guest performers like Richard Clayderman and Astrud Gilberto.
Though his concerts and albums are consistently successful — especially in England, where he had 52 hit albums between 1967-1986, which made him second to Elvis Presley in terms of number of charting records — he has only had two hit singles with "The Seduction," the theme from American Gigolo (1980) and Biscaya from the album "Biscaya".
He has won numerous polls and prizes, for example Billboard magazine's "Star of the year" trophy in 1976, and has been honored for his lifework with the German ECHO prize in 1994.
The song "The Lonely Shepherd", written by Last and performed by Gheorghe Zamfir and the James Last Orchestra, was featured in the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino's film "Kill Bill Vol. 1" (2003).
Personally, he divides his time between Florida and Germany. He gives much credit to his wife and son, who helps with the music.