Born: 1908, Toronto, Ontario
Genre: Easy Listening
“Theme From a Summer Place” (1960)
- Peaked at #1 on the U.S. Charts
- Peaked at #2 on the U.K. Charts
- Peaked at #4 on the Canadian Charts
- #1 single of the year in the U.S. (Billboard)
- Won Grammy (1961) Award for Record of the Year
Some Other Hits:
- “Delicado” (1952)
- “Song from the Moulin Rouge” (1953)
- “Theme for Young Lovers” (1960)
Percy Faith, conductor, arranger, pianist, and composer, was born in Toronto in 1908. He was to become Canada’s second easy listening musician (after Guy Lombardo), helped tremendously by recording the biggest single of the year 1960 on the U.S. Billboard charts—“Theme from a Summer Place”. He also arranged hits for other artists including Johnny Mathis, Burl Ives, Doris Day, and Tony Bennett. His band-leading career began at the height of the brass-dominated swing era which he rearranged into softer mood music by introducing large string sections.
At age seven, Faith began taking violin lessons; piano followed three years later. From 1920 on, he performed as an accompanist for silent films in Toronto cinemas. In 1923, at age 15, he gave his first recital in Toronto’s prestigious Massey Hall and was considered a prodigy. His career as a concert pianist was destroyed, however, when he injured his hands in a fire three years later.
Undeterred from pursuing his desired career in music, he turned to arranging, first for hotel orchestras, and then for radio. It was during this time that he developed his lush pop instrumental style, and he became a staple for the CBC live-music broadcasting in the 1930s. At the end of the decade “Music by Faith” was also being aired in the United States, and he was offered a job as director of “The Carnation Contented Hour” on NBC radio Chicago, which he accepted. He composed piano, choral, and orchestra works and won a $1,000 prize in 1943 for his operetta “The Gandy Dancer”. During these years, he often visited Canada to conduct concerts and CBC TV special broadcasts.
After five years in Chicago, he was offered a job with NBC in New York which he took in 1945. Percy Faith’s real recording and arrangements for popular singers began in 1950 when he joined Columbia Records as musical director and recording artist. He arranged pop and folk songs for other singers and pioneered easy listening mood music with the release his own albums. He was the first to record albums consisting solely of songs from Broadway shows and was one of the first to experiment with Latin rhythms.
He wrote Guy Mitchell’s first (and number one) single, “My Heart Cries for You” and he arranged three big hits for Tony Bennett. He scored his own first number one single in 1952, “Delicado”. His “Song from Moulin Rouge” also did well the following year. In the mid-50s, Faith began composing film scores, beginning with Love Me or Leave Me.
In 1960, Percy Faith scored his mega-hit, “Theme from a Summer Place”: #1 in the U.S., #2 in Britain, and #4 in Canada. It was the biggest song of the year in the U.S. according to their Billboard charts and it won a Grammy Award for record of the year. He won another Grammy Award in 1969 for his album, Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet. With the advent of harder rock in the late-1960′s, Faith’s music became gradually less popular, though he still recorded up until his death from cancer in 1976.