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Neal Hefti, Composer, Trumpeter and Arranger—Best Known for ‘Batman’ Theme—Dies at 85

Neal Hefti, the trumpeter, composer and arranger best known for composing the themes to Batman and The Odd Couple, died October 11th of an apparent heart attack in Toluca Lake, Calif. He was 85.

During his career, Hefti worked with jazz greats such as Count Basie and Woody Herman, but he is best remembered for his work for television and film.

Hefti, who was born in Hastings, Nebraska, in 1922, began composing tracks as a teenager for big band leader Nat Towles and for Earl Hines’ band. He played trumpet with Charlie Barnet and others, and toured with Herman, for whom he wrote such songs as “The Good Earth” and “Wild Root.” Hefti married Frances Wayne, the vocalist in the Herman band.

Hefti began arranging for Basie in 1950, and wrote material for that band, including “Li’l Darlin’,” “Little Pony” and “Cute.”

In the 1960s Hefti made the move to film and TV, writing music for such Hollywood productions as Sex and the Single Girl, The Odd Couple, Harlow, Duel at Diablo, Barefoot in the Park and How to Murder Your Wife. His composition of the Batman theme in 1966 became, perhaps, his most durable work.

Hefti also worked as an arranger and conductor with Frank Sinatra on his 1962 album Sinatra and Swingin’ Brass. He also worked with vocalists Doris Day, Mel Tormé and Tony Bennett and led his own bands.

Hefti had been semi-retired for about 25 years at the time of his death.

Originally Published