Leslie Bricusse was an internationally recognised songwriter and lyricist whose musical career spanned over 60 years. Throughout his life, he received two Oscars (with an additional eight nominations), a Grammy Award (out of a total of nine nominations), four Tony Award nominations and eight prestigious Ivor Novello Awards. It was Edward Kassner who gave Bricusse his first break in 1955 with a publishing deal that brought the music from the 1956 film Charley Moon and the 1958 West End show Lady at the Wheel, Bricusse’s earliest musical to achieve a West End run, to the Kassner Music catalogue.
Taken from Charley Moon, the song “Out of Town” became a UK Top 20 hit for Max Bygraves and earned Bricusse an Ivor Novello Award nomination. It later became the theme tune for the ITV programme of the same name, which would run throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The songs “Love Is”, “Siesta” and “Wish I Knew”, all from Lady at the Wheel, were recorded by several British artists at the time including Alma Cogan, Dickie Valentine, The Beverley Sisters and Spike Milligan.
Soon after these initial achievements, Bricusse began a writing partnership with Anthony Newley on the stage shows Stop the World I Want to Get Off (1961) and The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd (1964), the successes of which took his profile to a new level. Career highlights comprise penning the theme songs for the James Bond classics Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice, composing the scores of Dr Dolittle (1967) and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) and writing the lyrics for the musical Victor/Victoria (1982).
When Leslie Bricusse was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1989, he was only the fourth Englishman – behind Noel Coward, John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney – to be honoured and, in the same year, he was also presented with a Kennedy Award for consistent excellence in songwriting by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. He was appointed OBE for his services to the film industry and the theatre in 2001 and published an autobiography, ‘Pure Imagination’, in 2005. Bricusse sadly passed away, aged 90, on 19th October 2021.