Lennie Niehaus dead: Saxophonist and Composer for many Clint Eastwood films has passed away at 90

Lennie Niehaus Sax
Lennie Niehaus was a master with the saxophone. Pic credit: orthoman8/YouTube

Lennie Niehaus has died at the age of 90. He was under hospice care at his daughter’s home in California when he passed away.

During his musical career, Niehaus played the alto saxophone and served as the composer for many Clint Eastwood movies.

Lennie Niehaus has a long history in Hollywood

For years, Lennie Niehaus orchestrated the scores for films that Clint Eastwood either starred in or directed. This was due to the friendship that they had developed so many years earlier.

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The IMDb page for Niehaus is packed with credits from 50 different projects. He began composing and arranging for movie studios in 1959, working with composer Jerry Fielding on films that included Straw Dogs and The Gambler.

As for how he got connected with Eastwood, it stemmed from a love for jazz that they shared. That also played a big part in Eastwood’s production of Bird, which is the biopic of jazz saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker.

For Bird, Niehaus actually took the time to teach star Forest Whitaker how to play the saxophone. It worked really well on screen and it seemed like Whitaker really knew what he was doing in the film.

Some of the other films that Niehaus and Eastwood worked on together included Unforgiven, Space Cowboys, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, The Outlaw Josey Walers, and Gran Torino.

Niehaus also helped with the music for The Bad News Bears, Follow That Bird, The Two Jakes, and The Killer Elite. And those are just some of the credits he has received over the years.

Niehaus left a lasting impact

Lennie Niehaus was born on June 11, 1929, in St. Louis, Missouri. His father was a violinist and Niehaus went on to study music in Los Angeles. His studies were interrupted by two years that he spent in the U.S. Army.

It was in the army that Niehaus and Eastwood became friends. That friendship and the working relationship would last for many years afterward. It worked well, with the duo bouncing off of each other with ideas and music.

Niehaus was nominated for many different awards. He won a Primetime Emmy Award in 1994 for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music Composition for a Miniseries or a Special. That was for Lush Life.

Later, in 2008, he was nominated for another Emmy for his work on Mitch Albom’s For One More Day. During his career, he also received award nominations from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and BAFTA.

Four times, Niehaus won at the BMI Film & TV Awards. He won for his work on Heartbreak Ridge, Unforgiven, The Bridges of Madison County, and Space Cowboys.

Niehaus is survived by his wife Patricia and daughter Susan. He also leaves behind grandchildren Josh and Emily.

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