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James Last Dies: German-Born Big Band Leader Was 86

Image: James Last Dies: German-Born Big Band Leader Was 86
(Press Association via AP Images, file)

By    |   Wednesday, 10 Jun 2015 12:56 PM

James Last, the German-born big band leader, died "peacefully and in the presence of his family" this week in Florida, according to his manager. He was 86.

The representative told the BBC News that the light orchestral entertainer passed away Tuesday after a “short, serious illness.”

"He was an outstanding and important artist who lived for music and who wrote music history," Semmel Concerts said in a statement.

Born in the north German city of Bremen in 1929, the man originally christened Hans Last decided to pursue his musical career in 1943 during the fall of Nazi Germany’s Third Rich, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Post World War II, Last played double bass in numerous orchestras before signing a record deal with Polydor in 1964.

Widely called "Hansi" by his friends, Last constructed what became recognized as “Happy Sound.” This new take on orchestral music included renditions of jazz, swing, and pop songs that he had composed himself or mixed. Strangely for the German musician, Last was very popular among British audiences, and played one of his last concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall last April.

In the midst of his career spanning more than 50 years, Last produced over 100 records, comprising of several chart hits. The pan flute track “The Lonely Shepherd,” which Last composed in 1977, was used in the soundtrack for Quentin Tarantino’s movie “Kill Bill: Vol. 1.”

Semmel Concerts announced an open memorial service would be conducted in Hamburg, Germany, in the weeks to come.

After his death was made public, many took to Twitter to express their grief and to celebrate Last's life and work.













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James Last, the German-born big band leader, died "peacefully and in the presence of his family" this week in Florida, according to his manager. He was 86.
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Wednesday, 10 Jun 2015 12:56 PM
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