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Fred Karlin

Fred Karlin
Born (1936-06-16)June 16, 1936
Chicago, Illinois, U.S
Died March 26, 2004(2004-03-26) (aged 67)
Culver City, California, U.S.
Occupation Composer

Frederick James "Fred" Karlin (June 16, 1936 – March 26, 2004) was an American composer of more than one hundred scores for feature films and television movies. He also was an accomplished trumpeter adept at playing jazz, blues, classical, rock, and medieval music.

Life and career

Born in Chicago, Illinois, he studied jazz composition with William Russo and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College, where he wrote his String Quartet No. 2 as his honors thesis. Following graduation, he moved to New York City, composing and arranging for various bands, including those of Benny Goodman, Harry James, and Chubby Jackson. During this period he also composed and arranged for documentaries, the Radio City Music Hall orchestra, and television commercials.

In 1962, Karlin scored a record album for Columbia of extracts from the comic strip Peanuts, performed by actress Kaye Ballard as Lucy and songwriter Arthur Siegel as Charlie Brown. The innovative score was performed by Karlin entirely on children's musical instruments and toys.

Karlin began his film career with Up the Down Staircase in 1967. Following in quick succession were Yours, Mine and Ours (1968), The Stalking Moon (1968), The Sterile Cuckoo (1969), The Baby Maker (1970), Cover Me Babe (1970) and Lovers and Other Strangers (1970). For the latter he wrote the music for the song "For All We Know", which won the 1971 Academy Award for Best Original Song and was a major hit for The Carpenters. The Sandpipers charted with another of his compositions, "Come Saturday Morning." Other Karlin scores were nominated for three Academy Awards, including one for the movie The Little Ark (Based on a novel by Jan de Hartog) in 1972, his wife, Marsha, was also nominated for the same film.

His other film scores included The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker (1971), Believe in Me (1971), Every Little Crook and Nanny (1972), Westworld (1973), Chosen Survivors (1974), Mixed Company (1974), Baby Blue Marine (1976), Futureworld (1976), Mean Dog Blues (1978), Cloud Dancer (1980) and Loving Couples (1980), but the bulk of his work was in television. His compositions were nominated for the Emmy Award eleven times, and he won for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman in 1974. Other television projects included The Man Who Could Talk to Kids (1973), Born Innocent (1974), Bad Ronald (1974), The Dream Makers (1975), Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway (1976), Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn (1977), The Death of Richie (1977), Minstrel Man (1977, for which he received an NAACP Image Award), The Hostage Heart (1977), Christmas Miracle in Caufield, U.S.A. (1977), Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter (1979), Sophia Loren: Her Own Story (1980), Bitter Harvest (1981), and Inside the Third Reich (1982).

Karlin wrote three books about film composition, On the Track: A Guide to Contemporary Film Scoring (1990), Listening to Movies: The Film Lover's Guide to Film Music (1994), and 100 Great Film Scores, which was published posthumously in 2005. He also wrote a reference book detailing and cataloguing the thousands of recordings the Edison Company distributed between 1914 and 1929.

Karlin died of cancer in Culver City, California. He is survived by his wife, Megan Wells-Stagg Karlin; a brother, Kenneth; a son, Eric; two daughters, Wendy Karlin and Kathryn Velasquez; and four grandchildren and preceded in death by his son Kristopher who was murdered by Wendy Karlin in 1978. Kristopher's death was a great blow to Fred, as he relayed in a September, 1978 article in the defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Wendy served a short term sentence in a mental hospital.


  • Wright, H. Stephen; Limbacher, James L. Keeping Score: Film and Television Music, 1980–1988. Scarecrow Press, 1991.
  • Fred Karlin at the
  • Fred Karlin at

External links

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