Joe Harnell (b. August 2, 1924, The Bronx, New York City - July 14, 2005, Sherman Oaks, California) was an American easy listening composer and arranger.
His father was a vaudeville performer who also played in jazz and klezmer ensembles. Harnell began playing piano at age six and was performing in his father's ensembles by age 14. He attended the University of Miami on a music scholarship in the early 1940s, and in 1943 joined the Air Force, playing with Glenn Miller's Air Force Band. He studied with Nadia Boulanger when stationed in Paris and then under William Walton at Trinity College of Music in London. After his discharge in 1946, he studied at Tanglewood under Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein.
Eschewing the art-music world, Harnell sought work in pop and jazz, working as a for-hire pianist after returning to New York City in 1950. He played in Lester Lanin's band at this time and found work as an accompanist for singers such as Judy Garland, Maurice Chevalier, and Marlene Dietrich. From 1958 to 1961, he was Peggy Lee's full-time accompanist and arranger for the albums Anything Goes: Cole Porter and Peggy Lee & the George Shearing Quartet. In 1962, he was hurt in a car crash, and while he recovered, Kapp Records asked him to work on writing potential hits in the then-hot genre of bossa nova. Harnell's biggest success was with his arrangement of Fly Me to the Moon, which was a hit in the US in 1963 (#14 Pop, #4 AC) and which won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. The song also peaked at #6 in Joe's hometown, on WMCA in New York, on January 16, 1963. The album from which it was taken went to #3 on the Billboard 200. Harnell would go on to release nearly 20 easy listening albums, on Kapp, Columbia, and Motown among others.
Starting in 1964, Harnell worked with Gray Advertising as a jingle writer, and from 1967 to 1973 he worked as musical director of The Mike Douglas Show. In 1973 Harnell moved to Hollywood and worked in film score and television composition, composing for The Bionic Woman, The Incredible Hulk, Alien Nation, and V, for which he was awarded an Emmy in 1986. Following this he became a faculty member at USC's Flora Thornton School of Music as an instructor in film score composition.
Harnell published an autobiography entitled Counterpoint in 2000, co-authored with television producer/director Ira Skutch, and died of heart failure on July 14, 2005.
His Grandson, London-based Jeremy Harnell, JC Harnell, is a 2011 Winner in The People's Music Awards, in the "Off the Beaten Track" Category,
Natalia Tena (Harry Potter series), presenter.
Interview with JC Harnell on the @FLY53 propaganda page!
His first album CTLG, is reviewed below.
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