| 7.3°C Dublin

Sunday Game theme composer James Last dies

James Last, the composer of the iconic Sunday Game theme tune, has passed away at his US home after a "short, severe illness".

The big band leader died aged 86, his manager said.

"Mr Last passed away yesterday in Florida, peacefully and in the presence of his family," she said.

"In him, the world loses a unique ambassador whose expressive and all-encompassing language was music.

"We bid farewell to the man, friend and visionary, who by his impressive strength and openness, his professionalism, modesty and love of life served as a role model and as an inspiration for many generations worldwide," she added.

The German-born musician sold in excess of 80m records worldwide throughout his career and was a regular fixture on UK TV for many years.

Last and his band toured internationally from the mid-'60s onwards, and released more than 200 LPs.

Last has been a feature on Irish TV for 33 years as his big band tune has ushered in RTE's GAA coverage on the Sunday Game.

The tune was dropped from 2004, but was was reinstated in 2008 to mark the show's 30th anniversary.

Last was born in Bremen in 1929 and began his career specialising in the bass stringed instrument and piano, which he had begun playing at the age of six.


He signed a recording contract with the Hamburg label Polydor in 1964 which led to his world career as an orchestral leader and music arranger and brought him global success.

His trademark sound was "happy music", and background party sounds such as laughter were blended into his band's recordings.

The talented musician had arranged music for Freddy Quinn, Caterina Valente and Helmut Zacharias throughout his career.

He divided his time between Florida and Hamburg, where he lived with his second wife Christine.

He credited much of his music to her and his son Ronald.

Last played an open air concert to a huge crowd in Tralee, Co Kerry in 1983.

The concert was broadcast live on RTE at the time and was later released on VHS.