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Michel Colombier (May 23, 1939 – November 14, 2004) was a French composer, songwriter, arranger, and conductor. In a career that spanned over four decades, he composed over 100 film and television scores, as well as chamber music, ballets, and concept albums.[1] He won a César Award for Best Original Music for Élisa, and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and three Grammy Awards.

Michel Colombier
Born(1939-05-23)May 23, 1939
Lyon, France
DiedNovember 14, 2004(2004-11-14) (aged 65)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
GenresPop, progressive rock, rock, contemporary classical, avant-garde, film score
Occupation(s)Composer, conductor, arranger, songwriter
Years active1962–2003
Associated actsEddie Barclay, Petula Clark, Maurice Béjart, Serge Gainsbourg, Prince


Early lifeEdit

Colombier was born in Lyon, France into a musical family. His father taught him piano, harmony, counterpoint, and conducting from the age of six. By eleven he started to improvise and at fourteen he discovered jazz and performed with small combos and big bands for which he wrote and orchestrated arrangements. In the meantime, his father continued his education by adding the study of church organ and Gregorian chant. During his stint in the French Army he continued composing, arranging and playing the widest range of music from chamber orchestra to jazz band.


At the age of 22, he spent one year with avant-garde composer Michel Magne and was hired as the in-house musical director of Barclay, a record label founded by namesake Eddie Barclay. His first assignment was to arrange Charles Aznavour's first album in English, produced by Quincy Jones, for release in the United States. Around this time, he began writing and arranging commercial jingles.[2]

In 1967, Colombier collaborated with composer Pierre Henry to write music for Messe pour le temps présent, a piece created by choreographer Maurice Béjart. His interest in modern dance led him to collaborate with the likes of Mikhail Baryshnikov, Twyla Tharp, Roland Petit, Jean Babilée, and Daniel Ezralow, composing and arranging pieces for the American Ballet Theatre and the Paris Opera Ballet. He also composed music for a staging of Le Bourgeois gentilhomme by Comédie-Française, re-arranging original composer Jean-Baptiste Lully's music with contributions from contemporary pop singers and musicians. The collaboration turned into a huge popular success, and the play went on for years.[3]

In 1968, English singer and actress Petula Clark hired him as her musical director. She took him with her to the United States and introduced him to Herb Alpert of A&M Records, who signed him as an artist, composer, performer. The collaboration with Herb gave birth to "Wings", an entirely new concept album hailed as "the first pop symphony" and "the first rock oratorio." It used a rock band, a full brass section, an electric string trio, an entire array of percussion, 5 soloists, a choir and the Paris Opera Orchestra. The composition earned Colombier critical acclaim and attention, and earned him three Grammy Award nominations and the Grand Prize of the Académie Charles Cros. In Canada, the music of Wings became a TV special which won the Genie Award for Best Music Score and in Japan, he became known as "Fusion-Sama" or "Godfather of fusion."[4]

Filmmaker Jacques Demy asked Colombier to compose the music for Une chambre en ville, which Demy called his "dearest and most serious film." Although the film was not a commercial success, it was unanimously lauded by the French film critics, and earned Colombier a César Award nomination for Best Original Score.

His score for Prince's Purple Rain won a People's Choice Award, the song "Elisa", which he co-wrote with Serge Gainsbourg, became the inspiration for the film of the same name and went on to win a Cesar for Best Score. He is also the recipient of a Japan Music Award and the Prix de la Musique Symphonique Légère.

Personal lifeEdit

Colombier was married to Dana Colombier, with whom he had two children. He died in 2004 in Santa Monica, California, and is buried in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.



Year Title Director Notes
1964 FX 18 Maurice Cloche
Un drôle de caïd Jacques Poitrenaud
1965 La famille Hernandez Geneviève Baïlac
The Dictator's Guns Claude Sautet Composed with Eddie Barclay
L'or du duc Jacques Baratier
1966 Un monde nouveau Vittorio De Sica
The Gardener of Argenteuil Jean-Paul Le Chanois
1967 If I Were a Spy Bertrand Blier Composed with Serge Gainsbourg
1968 Every Bastard a King Uri Zohar
1969 Mr. Freedom William Klein
The Scarlet Lady Jean Valère
1970 Colossus: The Forbin Project Joseph Sargent First American film
1971 Law Breakers Marcel Carné
1972 Un flic Jean-Pierre Melville
1973 The Inheritor Philippe Labro
Tarot José María Forqué
1974 Paul and Michelle Lewis Gilbert
Le hasard et la violence Philippe Labro
1975 Les onze mille verges Eric Lipmann
1976 L'Alpagueur Philippe Labro
1977 The Model Couple William Klein Composed with Hugues Aufray
1979 Steel Steve Carver
1982 Une chambre en ville Jacques Demy Nominated- César Award for Best Original Music
1984 Against All Odds Taylor Hackford Composed with Larry Carlton

Nominated- Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media

Purple Rain Albert Magnoli Composed with Prince

Nominated- Saturn Award for Best Music

1985 White Nights Taylor Hackford Nominated- Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score
1986 The Money Pit Richard Benjamin
Ruthless People Jim Abrahams
David Zucker
Jerry Zucker
The Golden Child Michael Ritchie Composed with John Barry
1987 Surrender Jerry Belson
The Wild Pair Beau Bridges Composed with John Debney
1988 The Couch Trip Michael Ritchie
Cop James B. Harris
Satisfaction Joan Freeman
In extremis Olivier Lorsac
1989 Who's Harry Crumb? Paul Flaherty
Out Cold Malcolm Mowbray
Loverboy Joan Micklin Silver
Asterix and the Big Fight Philippe Grimond
1990 Catchfire Dennis Hopper Composed with Curt Sobel
Impulse Sondra Locke
Midnight Cabaret Pece Dingo
1991 New Jack City Mario Van Peebles Composed with Vassal Benford
Strictly Business Kevin Hooks
The Dark Wind Errol Morris
1992 Diary of a Hitman Roy London
Deep Cover Bill Duke
Folks! Ted Kotcheff
1993 Posse Mario Van Peebles
The Program David S. Ward
1994 Major League II
1995 Élisa Jean Becker Composed with Serge Gainsbourg & Zbigniew Preisner

César Award for Best Original Music

The World of Jacques Demy Agnès Varda Documentary film
1996 Barb Wire David Hogan
Foxfire Annette Haywood-Carter
1997 Meet Wally Sparks Peter Baldwin
1998 Kiss of Fire Antonio Tibaldi
Woo Daisy von Scherler Mayer
How Stella Got Her Groove Back Kevin Rodney Sullivan
1999 Pros & Cons Boris Damast
2000 Innocents Gregory Marquette
Screwed Scott Alexander
Larry Karaszewski
Running on the Sun: The Badwater 135 Mel Stuart Documentary film
2002 Swept Away Guy Ritchie


Year Title Notes
1969 Harold Robbins' The Survivors 15 episodes
1970 The Name of the Game Episode: "The Tradition"
1977 The Rhinemann Exchange Miniseries
1978 What Really Happened to the Class of '65? Episode: "Class Athlete"
1979 11th Victim Television film
1985-86 Alfred Hitchcock Presents 7 episodes
1986 Florida Straits Television film

Nominated- CableACE Award for Best Original Score in a Movie/Dramatic Special

1987 Shell Game 6 episodes
The Magical World of Disney Episode: "Double Switch"
1987-89 Desperado 5 episodes
1990 Tales from the Crypt Episode: "Lower Berth"
Buried Alive Television film
Sudie and Simpson
The Fatal Image
1991 Fatal Exposure
1992 Dirty Work
1993 Fade to Black
1994 Out of Darkness
Incident at Deception Ridge
1996 Mary & Tim
1997 Color of Justice
Murder in My Mind
Buried Alive II
The Right Connections
1998 Scattering Dad
1998 The Long Way Home
1999 Sabrina Down Under
2001 Warden of Red Rock
2001-03 Largo Winch 39 episodes
Messiah 4 episodes
2003 Deacons for Defense Television film


  1. ^ "Michel Colombier, 65; Composer Was Known for His Versatility". Los Angeles Times. 2004-11-17. Retrieved 2019-07-25.
  2. ^ O'Connor, Patrick (2004-11-19). "Obituary: Michel Colombier". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-07-25.
  3. ^ Reuters (2004-11-21). "Michel Colombier, French Composer, Dies at 65". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-07-25.
  4. ^ "Michel Colombier". Jango Radio. Retrieved 2019-07-25.

External linksEdit