Although he has composed a considerable amount of instrumental and theme music for film, TV and the theatre, it is arguably as a songwriter for film and musicals that David Shire has had his greatest success. His creative partner for many broadway musicals was lyricist Richard Maltby Jr. and together they created musicals such as "Baby" and the stage version of "Big" based upon the movie with Tom Hanks. Shire won the Best Song Oscar for the song "It Goes Like It Goes" in the movie "Norma Rae" and has contributed songs to some of his other film scores. His songs have been recorded by many artists including Barbra Streisand, Maureen McGovern, Melissa Manchester and Jennifer Warnes. Despite this emphasis on Broadway and songs, Shire has created some sterling instrumental music for a wide range of films. In the 70s Shire was married to Talia Coppola, the daughter of composer Carmine Coppola and sister of Francis Ford Coppola. Interestingly Shire's music for "Apocalypse Now" was replaced by music by Carmine & Francis Ford Coppola. Shire's original score is available on CD.
A first encounter with Shire's film music may come away with the impression of something light, with a uniquely intimate and involving aspect. Further listening soon discovers that his film scoring style has a certain logic and consistency which may vary from film to film. For "Farewell my Lovely" he uses a single theme ("Marlowe's Theme"), and presents this in a surprisingly broad range of styles including many different jazz idioms. In "Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear" he uses a single 4-note motif as a unifying element while ably assisting the screen action to build a number of moods and scares. This latter soundtrack also relies heavily on percussion, sometimes suggesting the jungle origins of the monkey.
In January 2005 at the "West Goes East - CalArts at the Kitchen" festival (CalArts meaning The California Institute of the Arts), there was a production of "The Re-Taking of Pelham 1-2-3" by the filmmaker Jane Brill with music by Steve Horowitz inspired by Shire's music on the original film. Although Shire has focussed very much on Television (and Stage) work recently he has completed the film score for David Fincher's "Zodiac".
Original cast recordings are available of some of Shire's musicals: