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James Last, big band leader and pioneer of the 'Happy Sound', dies at 86


James Last

James Last


James Last

BIG band leader James Last has died aged 86 at his home in Palm Beach, Florida. The final one of his remarkable 90 performances at London's Royal Albert Hall came in April 2015 as part of a farewell tour he announced after becoming seriously ill last year.

Last, who composed 'Jägerlatein', the music used as the theme for 'The Sunday Game', was a frequent visitor to Ireland, where he had thousands of fans and performed regularly.

The German-born musician sold millions of records and was a regular fixture on television for many years with his James Last Orchestra.

He pioneered what became known as 'Happy Sound'.

In a statement, his manager said: "Mr Last passed away [June 9, 2015] in Florida, peacefully and in the presence of his family."

Born Hans Last on April 17 1929, the man always known to friends as Hansi became highly adept at adapting pop hits to big band arrangements and in his lifetime he sold more than 80 million albums worldwide after clinching his first record deal in 1964.

He worked with many popular musicians, including Cliff Richard, Freddy Quinn, Richard Clayderman and René Kollo. In the UK alone, he had 52 hit albums between 1967 and 1986, cementing him in the record books as the second-best-selling artist of all time, behind Elvis Presley.

The bandleader modestly explained his musical ability in his 2009 autobiography, stating: "I am simply lucky enough to be one of the few people in the world who can hear one kind of music and immediately be able to translate it into another without having to think too much about it."


He released albums devoted to the music of Abba, Motown, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Bach and Vivaldi. Last had learned how to play the tuba and the piano as a child, before switching to bass as a teenager. He was voted as the best bassist by a German jazz poll for three consecutive years, from 1950-1952.

A public memorial service will take place in Hamburg in the coming weeks.

Irish Independent