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Perry Botkin Jr., Grammy-Winning TV and Film Composer, Dies at 87

Natalie Oganesyan
·3-min read

Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated TV and film composer Perry Botkin Jr., known for his themes for “The Young and the Restless,” the late ’70s sitcom “Mork & Mindy” and “The ABC Sunday Night Movie,” died Jan. 18, his publicist announced. He was 87.

Botkin, whose career spanned four decades, was also an arranger on Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” and The Cascades’ hit “Rhythm of the Rain.” He also worked on albums by artists such as Barbra Streisand, Peggy Lee, Bobby Darin, Sammy Davis Jr., Jack Jones, Paul Williams and more. Most recently, his music was featured on the soundtrack of Sony Pictures’ 2017 blockbuster “Baby Driver” and a 2016 Super Bowl Prius commercial.

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In 1971, Botkin and his composing partner Barry De Vorzon wrote the score for the Stanley Kramer film “Bless the Beasts and the Children,” earning them a best-song Oscar nomination for the title tune, which was sung by The Carpenters.

In 1973, the CBS soap “The Young and the Restless” adopted a cue (“Cotton’s Dream”) from that score as its theme. It later became known as “Nadia’s Theme” after ABC used the song in a montage featuring Russian Olympic medalist Nadia Comăneci, subsequently winning Botkin and De Vorzon a 1977 Grammy for best instrumental arrangement. In 2001, the theme was back on the charts as a result of Mary J. Blige’s sampling for “No More Drama.”

Known as a prolific film and television composer in the 1970s and 1980s, his additional credits include the films “R.P.M.” (with De Vorzon), “Skyjacked,” “They Only Kill Their Masters,” “Lady Ice” and “Goin’ South” and the TV series “Adam’s Rib,” “Quark” and “The Tortellis.”

An album he arranged and conducted, “Bongo Rock” by the Incredible Bongo Band, is now credited with the birth of hip-hop in a documentary film, “Sample This.” The album also included two of his original songs, one of which was featured in “Baby Driver.” Botkin also composed dozens of well-known commercial jingles for advertisers such as American Airlines, Baskin Robbins, Busch Light, Chevron and Mattel, among others.

Additionally, Botkin and his business partner, George Tipton, discovered young singer-songwriter, Harry Nilsson, who was working at a bank at the time, and signed him to his first publishing contract, resulting in several collaborations between Botkin and Nilsson including his “Pandemonium Shadow Show” album and a musical.

Botkin was born in New York on April 16, 1933, but moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1936. Botkin began his career in music as a trombone player in a high school jazz quartet that included film composer John Williams on piano. He played in the Black Band at West Point and attended Indiana University and the film scoring program at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.

In 1955, he joined a vocal group called “The Cheers” who scored a major hit with their song “Black Denim Trousers.” He also had success as one-half of the duo “The Fraternity Brothers” with one of his early co-writers.

Botkin came from a musically-inclined family, as his father, Perry Botkin, Sr., composed the underscore for ’60s sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies” and played guitar and banjo in Bing Crosby’s band, later appearing in several movies with him. In 1956, Perry Sr. and his son guest-starred on a now classic episode of “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” (“The Banjo Player”) in which Botkin, Jr. had a speaking role as a high school friend and bandmate of Ricky Nelson.

He is survived by his wife Liza, son David and grandson Daniel Tyler Botkin.

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