Jack Nitzsche played piano, guitar and saxophone and started out as a song-writer working with artists such as Sonny Bono (co-writing "Needles and Pins") and also releasing his own instrumental "The Lonely Surfer", before teaming up with Phil Spector as an arranged and conductor. Working for Spector, he orchestrated tracks and created backing music for artists such as Ike & Tina Turner, Glen Campbell, Doris Day, The Beach Boys, The Monkees and The Rolling Stones. He worked closely with Neil Young for a number of years, playing keyboards in his band, before the two parted after a disagreement. In the 1960s and 70s he found increasing opportunities in the film business, many of those opportunities arising through Nitzsche's many contacts and close personal relationships with musicians and filmmakers. Initially many of the films he worked on had song-based soundtracks, though he progressed very naturally into writing film scores. He created additional music for "The Exorcist" and scored a handful of soundtracks before his first major film hit "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" which gave the composer his first oscar nomination.
Around this time Nitzsche met and collaborated with the singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie. In 1982 Nitzsche got another "best original score" oscar nomination for the film "An Officer and a Gentleman", with Nizsche and Saint-Marie (along with lyricist Will Jennings) winning the "best original song" category for the film's huge hit song "Up Where We Belong". Nitzsche and Sainte-Marie married soon afterwards. Director John Carpenter frequently scored his own films but producer Michael Douglas persuaded Carpenter to ask Jack Nitzsche to score "Starman", thanks to Douglas' prior successful collaboration with the composer on "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". "Starman" went on to become something of a cult hit for both the film and its music. Indeed Nitzsche's main Starman theme is being used in the UK on a series of television advertisements for Virgin Media - view here on youtube. Michael Douglas went to Nitzsche again for "Jewel in the Nile", the sequel to his earlier "Romancing the Stone".
Nitzsche worked with director John Byrum on several occasions, scoring his films "Heart Beat", "Cutter's Way" and "Razor's Edge" and his television series "Middle Ages" later in the 90s. Jack Nitzsche continued to score films throughout the 1980s, and many of his individual songs have featured on multiple soundtracks, though his new output started to decline in the 1990s when he suffered from health-related problems. When the composer died in 2000 at the age of 63, the tributes he received were a testament to his influence on other musicians. Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt included a dedication in the credits for the film "The Pledge": In Memory Of Jack Nitzsche (our brother in arms), and an R.E.M. instrumental track written by the group's guitarist Peter Back was called "2JN" meaning "To Jack Nitzsche".
Again Nitzsche's songs, particularly "Up Where We Belong" have appeared in many television programmes.
Some of Nitzsche's scores are quite rare fetching generally high prices online, but it is worth checking the following links for bargains: