John Morris, Composer of Classic Mel Brooks Songs, Dies at 91
The movies are filled with unsung heroes, who create the things we love but rarely receive proper credit beause they’re not the ones in front of the camera. Here is one of them: John Morris, who, for decades, was the composer for director Mel Brooks and in that capacity helped write some of the funniest songs in film history. Sadly, Morris passed away last Thursday in Brooklyn after a respiratory infection. He was 91 years old.
Morris was the composer on Brooks’ very first film, his breakthrough Oscar winner The Producers. Morris was working on Broadway when Brooks recruited him for The Producers, which was about two men trying to create the worst musical in Broadway history. Morris wrote the music for their hilariously terrible creation, Springtime for Hitler, including its unforgettable title song:
Brooks and Morris collaborated again and again. When Brooks’ films required songs, Brooks wrote the words and Morris provided the melodies. That includes the title theme to Brooks’ Western spoof Blazing Saddles:
Before you ask, yes: Morris also wrote the theme from Spaceballs.
Morris’ non-Brooks film projects included the scores for Clue and Dirty Dancing. In their obituary for Morris, The New York Times spoke with Brooks about the impact Morris had on his films.
He was my emotional right arm. Music tells you what to feel and he knew what I wanted you to feel. He composed it and made it happen.
Few composers were better at speaking to audiences through music in a comedy context than Morris. Fans of Brooks’ films (so everyone, basically) will be enjoying his work for years to come.