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Pianist known for movie theme songs dies at 88

Famed 1960s-era pianist Art Ferrante teamed with Lou Teicher in a series of hit records based on movie theme songs.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Pianist Art Ferrante, who teamed with Lou Teicher to record a series of 1960s easy-listening hits based on movie theme songs, has died at his South Florida home. He was 88.

The duo’s longtime manager, Scott W. Smith, said Monday that Ferrante died Saturday of natural causes in Longboat Key, about 60 miles south of Tampa.

Along with Teicher, Ferrante recorded versions of themes from movies including “Exodus,” “The Apartment,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” and “Cleopatra.” They also recorded “Tonight,” from “West Side Story” and the theme from “Midnight Cowboy.”

Ferrante and Teicher, known as “The Movie Theme Team,” performed together for 40 years after meeting as children at the Juilliard School in New York.

Smith, who managed the duo for 38 years, said Ferrante played the piano every day.

“Until about four weeks ago he was still playing,” Smith said. “He was an unbelievable, incredible pianist. His hands, they moved like he was still 20 years old. He had other (aging) problems, but playing the piano was not one of them.”

Smith disputed the characterization of the duo’s music as easy listening, saying Ferrante could play complicated classical works off the top of his head.

“They were both absolute genius,” Smith said.

When Teicher died in 2008 at age 83, Ferrante told The Associated Press that the pair turned friendship into 40 years of artistic and business success.

The men played 9-foot concert pianos while facing each other on stage.

“No one was more blessed than I to have Lou Teicher as my best friend since we met at the Juilliard School Of Music at the ages of 9 and 6,” Ferrante said.

“Although we were two individuals, at the twin-pianos our brains worked as one. Lou was certainly one of the world’s most gifted pianists,” he said.

They recorded more than 150 albums and dozens of singles, selling more than 88 million records worldwide and earning 22 gold and platinum records. They also made more than 200 television appearances, some with personalities including Ed Sullivan, Dick Clark and Johnny Carson. They were White House guests of Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Their annual Ferrante & Teicher Tour ended in 1989 after more than 5,200 concerts.

Ferrante is survived by his wife, daughter and twin granddaughters.

Smith said private memorial services will likely be held in Longboat Key, where both Ferrante and Teicher moved in the mid-1980s after spending decades based in New York.