Earle Hagen In Memoriam
We treasure the memory of this great human being and musician, and if you too would like to add to the tributes below (or have other questions or comments), just type the following address in a message blank
Earle Hagen was simply the most extraordinary of men. His humanity, kindness, vital spirit and joie de vivre would have made him a towering figure if he'd never even touched the world of music.
However, his status as one of the giants in the field (or “benchmark for the profession” as one astute observer proclaimed) made him larger than life in every sense of the word.
And yet, he was one of the most approachable, unassuming and unaffected individuals one could meet. He knew the weight of his voluminous contribution to music, but he let it speak for itself. And didn't it sing out for all to hear!
Fluent with the snappy as well as the sublime, his achievements include television's most familiar theme” and probably the sultriest of the American standards. And within that range from “The Andy Griffith Show” signature to “Harlem Nocturne” was a host of astoundingly complex and disarmingly simple music, most especially his dynamic scores for the “I Spy” series - the pulsating and electrifying main title, a wealth of ethnic-flavored jazz, and the poignant love themes for the “Tatia” and Emmy-winning “Laya” episodes. The most romantic of men, Earle Hagen's ability to portray tender feelings was clearly exhibited in these scores.
While any one of his musical accomplishments was done at a dazzling level, the most amazing thing was how many different musical summits he conquered.
As a fledgling trombonist, he was subbing for Tommy Dorsey within weeks of joining the band, then became an arranger and composer (of that entry in the canon of Americana) before leaving his teens.
After orchestrating major musicals at Fox, he became a successful businessman, supplying a one-stop service for television producers, only one part of which was scoring 3000 hours of original music for television, each minute of which was finitely sculpted to the frames it occupied.
Dean of film scoring educators as well as author of the primary texts on composing for the screen, he loved working with young composers, each one of whom still testifies to Earle Hagen's uncanny ability to clearly communicate his subjects.
And that doesn't begin to cover the many other areas where he distinguished himself, both inside and outside the musical sphere.
But his greatest thrill as a musician was inevitably giving the downbeat to an orchestra and hearing it come alive. His rapport with other musicians was just a hint of what left all who ever met Earle Hagen remembering one of the nicest people they ever encountered. For while that incredible mind turned out reams of psychologically perfect themes, the persona inspired and set people alight.
His graciousness and generosity were legend, and even those who were not direct recipients still felt it through his music. Seldom if ever have viewers spoken of the makers of music for television with the warmth that characterizes the feelings voiced about Earle Hagen.
It is not simply appreciation, but more, a genuine sense of the man behind the music as a very special someone, a man of understanding and perception. But perhaps what bubbled that fact to the surface from the pen and baton right into the brain of those who heard his music was that strength of character that was embedded in all Earle Hagen did. The truth and honesty of the man.
He was a gift to 20th century America, and God's gift to him were the two women who shared his adult life. For six decades, the ebullient Lou, beloved by all, and for the last years of his life, the sweet and caring Laura whose companionship gave him a joy and zest for living that sustained his heart well beyond its capacity to give life.
Earle Hagen was an iconic composer of music for television, and also my teacher, mentor, colleague and friend. As most composers know, he literally wrote the book on film scoring. He taught hundreds of students in his home and in BMI workshops and his book was used in colleges and universities by thousands more. I was fortunate enough to take Earle's course at a time when the only way to study the synchronization of music to film, and the psychology involved in doing so, was to attend Earle's living room workshop - if you were willing to provide the golf balls he required as tuition. Everything I learned from Earle I was able to put into practice and still do so on a daily basis. His mentor in the business was Alfred Newman, and I was always fully aware of this influence when working with Earle. What an education I received - and what opportunities. My first orchestration for television, my first cue (a feature performance with full cue sheet credit), my first booth gig and first spotting session were all courtesy of Earle.
Earle won virtually every award possible in our business. His music has been on the air continuously for decades. While his most performed tune is HARLEM NOCTURNE, perhaps his most familiar music to non-musicians is the ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW theme, featuring Earle himself as the whistler. Yet he was endlessly self-effacing about his tremendous success. It was family, friends and his favorite musicians that he valued most of all, and especially the time spent with them. My condolences go out to his wife Laura and sons Deane and Jim. I will miss Earle more than I can say.”
(reproduced from the Society of Composers & Lyricists Community News)
"Our lives move in purposeful and unpurposeful directions, and if we are blessed, and alert, we arrive at intersections marked by truly memorable encounters of people and events. At each of these rare intersections, we raise a personal sign post of significance to mark the event. Such has been my long 39 year friendship and remembrance of Earle Hagen.
As I look back over my long traveled trail, over the broad landscape of my life, I can glance back and still clearly notice one notated sign, noticeably above so many others, that marks an unforgettable, endearing and grateful beginning of an association with a genuinely dear, `giving man.'"
Be at peace, and thank you.
”I just received word that Earle Hagen has passed away.
I have for decades been a great admirer of Mr. Hagen's work. His contributions to the world of music were always sadly underrated and under-appreciated. His contributions to the field of television music in particular cannot be
overstated. I recently watched a long interview with Mr. Hagen
and found him fascinating. I have his textbooks, and I have as much music of his as I could find in recorded form. I'm still amazed at his work for "The Andy Griffith Show," noting his ability to manipulate my emotions through his music, and particularly appreciating the way almost every character on the show, regular or one-shot, got his or her own musical theme. His versatility is notable, as anyone who can write scores for the Griffith show then turn around and write "I Spy" clearly understands the link between film and music. Not to mention that "Harlem Nocturne" has always been one of my favorites.
Here's part of a videotaped interview with Andy Griffith done some years ago. The interviewer is throwing out names of people associated with Griffith's career. Watch Andy's immediate reaction to the name "Earle Hagen" at approximately 8:55 :
It saddens me a great deal to know he is gone. He composed some of my all-time favorite music, and was nothing short of a genius at what he did. I never knew him personally, but I will miss him nonetheless. I'm so grateful that he left such a wonderful, timeless musical legacy behind.
My thoughts are with all who were close to him.”
“It pained me to read of the loss of Earle Hagen, a great man of music. Despite all his later movie and TV work, he will be most remembered for "Harlem Nocturne" a masterpiece of a song that captured the essence of a neighborhood 3, 000 miles away from his residence, and of course, of two African-American geniuses, Johnny Hodges and Duke Ellington. Yet I wonder if there isn't a subtone of love expressed for Elouise who was the first female vocalist Ray Noble ever had after ten years of conducting.”
I was honored to have worked with Earle on the Dukes of Hazzard TV show for the one year Earle was the composer on the show. I was the fiddler/ violinist on this show during Earles season with the Dukes. Truly memorable, and what a delight he was as both a man and composer. I continue to remember him fondly and am certain that I join all the musicians who have had the delight and honor to have worked with Earle is sending our heartfelt condolences to his family. He will be missed, and has left us all with so much legacy that speaks so beautifully for him. What a great composer!”
so sorry to hear about earle, i will always remember our wedding when lou played us "love story" with earle by her side. deane and jimmy our hearts are with you in this sad time of life, we love you guys,
stacy and wylie stilwell
[We ask all visitors to please keep Wylie and his family in your prayers/Good Thoughts in his own times of trial.]
“I just received the sad news of the passing of Earle. My father was the pastor that remarried Lou and Eale on their 35th anniversary (Vernon Rodgers). The website on Earle is fabulous! I spent the entire day looking at it. With tears of happiness and sadness. Lou played the piano at my wedding back in 1983. Earle and Lou are two people I will remember with a smile for my entire life. They were two of the kindest people I have ever met.”
“Earle Hagen was truly an amazing man, and contributed so much to popular culture.”
Don Dollar, CBS
His profile can be read at
” Please extend my condolences to the family. My father, Milt Adelstein (aka Milt Rogers) studied with Earle Hagen way back (many many years ago). I still have Earls's book on film scoring from my dad's library (he passed away back in 1981). It's interesting to think back when Earle was teaching film and TV scoring, that basically, he was the guy. Additionally, it was the time when all the calculations were done on paper, not by computer like today! One really had to use their brains. I played in music groups with his son, Deane (Bob Welch and Baxter Robertson) back in the late 70's and early 80's.”
” My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Hagen family on the passing of Earle. I knew Mr. Hagen as the father of Jim, my friend when we lived in Calabasas as next door neighbors. He was a very kind man who always had a good word to say to me. I remember great times I spent with Jim and his father including countless hours at their house and on the basketball court.
feel very fortunate to have been brought up the way I was. I lived with Earle Hagen and Dennis Weaver (both icons) as my next door neighbors in Calabasas. They both have provided some special insight into people in general that I will cherish for years.
Earle will be missed greatly.”
“I'm a former TV entertainment reporter who knew the name of Earle Hagen from the time I was ten years old. I was a TV fanatic and watched EVERYTHING.
Earle Hagen was responsible for my favorite theme songs, especially Andy Griffith (which I still love to whistle), That Girl and The Mod Squad - (a more exciting theme than Mod Squad would be impossible to find). I've enjoyed reading everything on this wonderful site. The page in tribute to Lou is very touching too. I am thinking of Earle's family and friends at this sad time.
His music will live on forever.”
"We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when.... Thanks for everything, Earle and Lou. Love and sympathy to surviving family.”
” Deane and Jimmy,I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your Dad.You are both in my thoughts and prayers. You might not remember me; I was the chef at Calabasas country club, and house sat for your parents and Major and Minor. Lou and Earle will be missed.”
“I just saw the news this morning that Mr. Hagen had passed away. Our love and sympathy reaches out to his family. I believe our Creator wanted him home to play beautiful melodies for Him. Can you imagine the chorus of angels backing Earle!”
Allan and Marilyn Nielsen
“Earle Hagen was the perfect composer. He knew exactly when and where the music should go, when to stay out of the scene completely and, of course, how to evoke emotion. Aaron Copland once said that film music should be like a little candle at the bottom of the screen---warming the action. Hagen's music could be funny, happy and so very expressive---so very American. His music didn't just fill in the blanks, it commented intelligently on the characters and stories. Hopefully someone will finally issue some recordings of his music from television. Just imagine: a two or three CD set of themes and suites. That would be so wonderful!"
“Rest in Peace.”
R. P. Roden
” I was really sorry to hear of the passing of
Mr. Hagen. We will forever remember him every time we hear him whistling when re-runs of Andy Griffith begin!”
May he rest in peace.
“I read about Earle's passing and I just wanted to send my condolences to the family. Earle was a master of TV soundtracks and a pioneer of the art. His credits are far reaching, but I particularly loved his work on the Andy Griffith show. Certainly on the same level as Mancini. I met Deane thru a mutual friend, John Turner, back in the 70's. The 3 of us spent some time together at the family's San Fernando Valley home, and playing a few gigs before the move to the Palm Springs area. Deane also has a remarkable talent as a drummer/percussionists and writer/arranger.”
I have been a big fan of Earle Hagen's music for years. About two years ago I was compelled to write him a fan letter. I searched for a business address, but found a phone number instead. I called, expecting someone else named Earle Hagen, or a recording. The person who answered was Earle Hagen. I was surprised and a bit shy at first, not wanting to bother a man that I respected so much. He immediately put me at ease, thanking me for being a fan. He answered some questions, and spoke about his music. What a gentleman, great talent, and real genuine person. My condolences to his friends and family. Thank you for the music!