Best remembered for his Oscar-winning scores to A Man and a Woman and Love Story, composer Francis Lai was born April 26, 1932, in Nice, France. After studying piano as a child, he later discovered jazz, and during the 1950s followed friend and singer Claude Goaty to Paris, eventually settling in Montmartre. At the local Taverne d'Attilio, Lai met Bernard Dimey, with whom he collaborated on well over 100 songs; a brief stint in Michel Magne's orchestra preceded his tenure as accompanist for Édith Piaf, for whom Lai composed a number of songs as well. He made his film debut in 1964 with the score to Roger Vadim's remake of Max Ophuls' classic La Ronde, and two years later composed the music for Jean-Luc Godard's Masculin/Feminin; however, it was his work on Claude Lelouch's 1966 hit A Man and a Woman that elevated Lai to international renown, and in addition to earning an Academy Award, he notched a perennial easy listening favorite with the picture's Brazilian-inflected title tune. He won a second Oscar for the 1970 Arthur Hiller blockbuster Love Story, and the film's theme, "Where Do I Begin?," also became a Top 40 hit for Andy Williams, Henry Mancini, and even Lai himself. Although the composer never again reached the same commercial heights, he continued working regularly in the cinema, often in conjunction with director Lelouch, and composed a number of instrumental favorites, including "Today It's You," "Happy New Year," and "Love in the Rain." Francis Lai died in Nice on November 7, 2018 at the age of 86.
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