Billy Goldenberg, a two-time Emmy-winning composer and 21-time nominee who was musical director for Elvis Presley’s 1968 “Comeback Special” and worked on scores of shows ranging from Night Gallery and The Young and the Restless to Columbo, Kojak, Rhoda and Steven Spielberg’s Duel, has died. He was 84.
The news was confirmed on social media by Goldenberg’s friends Leonard Slatkin and Gary Gerani, but no cause of death was given. Read their tributes below.
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Goldenberg worked on hundreds of films and TV programs — mostly the latter — during a career that spanned four decades. His early work included 1960s TV specials from Barbra Streisand and Ann-Margret and serving as music coordinator for the pop music series Hullabaloo.
In 1968, he was set as musical director for NBC’s Presley program that would come to be known as the ’68 Comeback Special. A few years later, Goldenberg would work his another showbiz legend, Spielberg, on his seminal TV movie Duel, starring Dennis Weaver as a motorist terrorized by the unseen driver of a big rig on lonely stretches of highway. The 1971 classic was the future multiple Oscar winner’s first full-length feature as director.
From there, Goldenberg would compose music and/or theme songs for dozens of TV series including Columbo, The Young and the Restless, McCloud, Harry O, The Name of the Game, Kojak and Rhoda, along with dozens of TV movies. He won Emmys for a pair of miniseries: 1978’s King, starring Paul Winfield as Dr. Martin Luther King, and 1974’s The Lives of Benjamin Franklin.
The native New Yorker received 19 other Emmy noms during his career, for his work on such shows as Columbo, Kojak — for which he penned the memorable theme song — Dark Victory, An Evening with Diana Ross, Helter Skelter, Bare Essence and People Like Us. His big-screen credits include The Last of Sheila, The Domino Principle and Woody Allen’s Play It Again Sam.
My dear friend Billy Goldenberg passed away this morning. His name might not be familiar, but his music is, whether the soundtrack for “Columbo,” his show with Bea Arthur or a myriad of films. He was an important voice in the music world. A kinder, gentler person never existed. pic.twitter.com/PhbhBwo50I
— Leonard Slatkin (@LeonardSlatkin) August 5, 2020
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