Soundtracks, Soundtracks, Soundtracks: Michael Kamen, we love you!

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

There are many things that make a movie what it is. It all starts with a story (according to what every How-To book on screenwriting tells us), there is the director and his crew, there are the actors, who bust their asses to bring a vision to life. Then comes the wonderful world of post-production. What is one result of that? The music. Soundtracks enhance the movie going experience. They can make us cry, they can pump us up, they can make us remember the 80’s. Whether it be a musical band or a composer, soundtracks help our favorite movies stay etched in our mind forever.

Michael Kamen, born April 15, 1948 started his amazing career as an arranger for a long list of musical groups including Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, Queen, Aerosmith, Tom Petty, Bon Jovi, David Bowie, Metallica, Def Leppard, among many others. From there he went on to score a wide variety of films and earned himself three Grammy Awards on top of Academy Award nominations, two Golden Globe wins, and an Emmy. Like every great composer he had that sound that many can pinpoint as being his while at the same time knowing how to reinvent himself. Kamen passed away in 2003, but his work has made him immortal to those who appreciate the magic film composers bring to everything that they do. Starting with the original Die Hard, we pay tribute to Michael Kamen’s diverse work throughout his career. Michael Kamen, we salute you!

1. DIE HARD 1-3

A classic score for a classic film, the use of Christmas themed music and snippets of Beethoven’s 9th symphony is nothing short of brilliant. I was raised with an appreciation for classical music, so those Beethoven beats are a geek out moment for me with every single viewing. Great moments in the film include things like cues from Kamen’s score in scenes like “Under the Table” and “Gruber’s Departure.” Another brilliant move as stated before is the Christmas cues Kamen had employed, contributing to making this film one that numerous fans revisit every holiday season. In the track selected “Gruber’s Arrival”, we get a glimpse of everything this soundtrack had to offer, and it was done while introducing one of the most memorable on screen villains of all time.


Michael Kamen had some help to make this soundtrack as memorable as it is. The guitar in the “Riggs” track was performed by the always awesome Eric Clapton, while the saxophone section of the track dedicated to Murtaugh was performed by David Sanborn. One of the most intense moments for me in any film was hearing Riggs special track blare through the speakers while Riggs contemplates suicide and his melancholy hesitation and breakdown. Never could you feel a characters heartbreak more than that moment in my humble opinion. Listen on with the track “Meet Martin Riggs” that gives us the best of everything this soundtrack has to offer.


The Overture is definitely the most recognized piece of music from this film and one of the most iconic film scores period in my eyes, but this whole film is filled with great musical moments. The love theme given to Robin Hood and his Maid Marian is one of the best love themes ever recorded. Other great tracks include “Little John/Band in the Forest” and “Abduction/Final Battle at the Gallows” A specific musical cue I always loved was in the scene in which Will reveals to Robin that they are brothers, a great emotional moment that Kamen is an expert at complimenting. I always get a kick out of this films “Overture” being featured in a montage of past Disney films that have been featured on a few DVD’s. It has amazed my parents that I know exactly where it comes from, “how do you know this sh*t?” Because I am awesome and so is Michael Kamen.


As I was listening to the suite for Kamen’s work on this series, it’s so recognizable and I mean this in the best way possible. Kamen developed a distinct style as so many do in his later years; in his work here I see shades of his work on Robin Hood. This music is so heroic and patriotic that I feel like if every single soul had heard it during the days of the draft, out of being pumped up not a single one of them would have found a way to be exempt. This is once more unto the breach type of stuff folks. Kamen is one of the kings of stirring emotion, and he was in tip top form for Band of Brothers…I’ve replayed the suite four times now. What does that tell you?


From what I understand, Michael Kamen’s journey with scoring The Iron Giant was interesting one. In doing his best to keep up with director Brad Bird’s vision for the score, which was to be reminiscent of Bernard Herman’s work in the 50’s and 60’s, Kamen ultimately traveled to Prague to hear the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, who eventually came on to work on the film. What resulted was an Annie Award winning score that has attributed to one of the many elements that gives me the feeling that this film is vastly underrated. I mean, is there anybody who has seen the film that doesn’t think the Giant soaring to the sky and muttering ‘Superman’ while Kamen’s score is playing is perfect? Not to mention the music that follows that reveals the Giant isn’t as obliterated as we thought. This film was magical, and Michael Kamen definitely contributed to that.


Brazil was a film that was nowhere near my radar until I decided to jump into film school, and this Terry Gilliam opus was suggested to me by my pre-production instructor. In recent years I have developed a new found appreciation for the surreal as my eyes have been opened to so much more. This film and the musical score qualify. For his work on Brazil, we get snippets of Michael Kamen’s signature style, and a bit of a Kamen that I am not used to. For the latter I refer to tracks like “Bachianos Brazil Samba”, which sounds like something you’d love to hear during a fiesta. The man himself was featured in an introspective score ‘Production Notebook’, in which he states that he’s an expert at bittersweet (I agree) that you can check out here.


Source: JoBlo

About the Author