About Bill Conti
A composer, songwriter, and conductor of film and television music since the late '60s, Bill Conti's distinctly exhilarating themes from hits such as Rocky (1976), For Your Eyes Only (1981), and TV's Dynasty (1981-1989) became an indelible part of pop culture in the 1970s, '80s, and beyond. A Grammy winner for Rocky's score album, he later won the Academy Award for Best Original Score for The Right Stuff (1983). Also known for his themes to shows such as Falcon Crest and American Gladiators, he took home Emmy Awards in the '90s and 2000s for his work as musical director on multiple Oscar broadcasts. Rocky Balboa, the fifth film in the Rocky franchise to feature Conti's music, saw release in 2006. Still active in the 2010s, among other assignments, he scored the 2010 sports film Small Town Hero and was music director of The Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special in 2017.
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1942, Conti learned piano from his father and later took up the bassoon. While studying composition at Louisiana State University, he also performed with the school's symphony orchestra, spending his evenings playing jazz in area clubs. Conti subsequently earned his master's degree from Juilliard before relocating to Italy in 1967. He first broke into the film industry there, composing and arranging music for productions including Juliette de Sade and A Candidate for a Killing (Un Sudario a la Medida), both released in 1960.
In 1971, Conti collaborated with Manuel de Sica on Vittorio de Sica's Oscar-winning Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini. He subsequently returned to the U.S., where he composed the soundtracks for features including Blume in Love (1973) and Harry and Tonto (1974), both for director Paul Mazursky. Conti shot to fame in 1976 with his score for the Sylvester Stallone boxing film Rocky. The soundtrack album went platinum, and the main theme, "Gonna Fly Now," topped the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of July 2, 1977. An Oscar nomination for best song followed for Conti and lyricists Carol Connors and Ayn Robbins. He and Stallone subsequently reunited for chapters two, three, and five in the Rocky series, as well as 1978's F.I.S.T. and Paradise Alley.
The James Bond feature For Your Eyes Only opened in theaters in 1981 with a score and title song composed by Conti. Sung by Sheena Easton, "For Your Eyes Only" reached number four on the singles chart in the U.S. and number eight in the U.K. Conti was nominated again for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, this time with lyricist Mick Lesson. Conti's first Oscar win came in the category of Best Original Score for his work on the 1983 biopic The Right Stuff.
By the early '80s, Conti was becoming well-established as a TV-theme composer, writing the themes for hit shows like Dynasty (1981-1989), Falcon Crest (1981-1990), and Cagney & Lacey (1982-1988). The Dynasty theme spent a week on the Hot 100. Back on the big screen, the 1984 martial arts drama The Karate Kid featured a score by Conti; he went on to write the music for the first three sequels. He composed the score for the TV miniseries North and South, Book I (1985) and North and South, Book II (1986), resulting in an Emmy nomination for the first episode. Films such as the popular comedies Baby Boom and Broadcast News followed in 1987, and The Karate Kid, Part III arrived in theaters in 1989.
Conti continued to rack up sports-themed film and television credits into the '90s, including TV's American Gladiators (1989-1993) and the movies Necessary Roughness (1991), Rookie of the Year (1993), and The Next Karate Kid (1994). Meanwhile, he became a fixture on the live broadcasts of the Academy Awards, winning Emmys in 1992, 1998, and 2003 for his music direction. A video game based on the 1972 film The Godfather featured music by Conti and Ashley Irwin in 2006, the same year Rocky Balboa -- the Stallone-directed sequel to Rocky V -- was released theatrically. Conti scored films including 2008's Hold-Up and the 2009 Little League movie The Hero to close out the 2000s.
Another sports film, the football-themed Small Town Hero, followed in 2010, and Conti composed music for the spy flick Two Knives, released in 2011. His existing themes appeared in projects such as the 2015 Rocky sequel Creed and a television reboot of Dynasty (2017-2018). Though working infrequently by the mid-2010s, he served as music director of The Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special, which aired on CBS in 2017. ~ Marcy Donelson
BORNApril 13, 1942