Kenyon Hopkins
Date of Birth
Jan 15, 1912
Birth Place:
Coffeyville, Kansas

Biography

Composer/arranger Kenyon Hopkins was one of the busier figures in film and television music from the mid-'50s through the mid-'70s. Although best remembered for his work as music director for the television series The Odd Couple and The Brady Bunch, he wrote some vital and important film scores and scored some very serious television programs. Born a minister's son in Coffeyville, KS, Hopkins was raised in Michigan and studied music theory and composition at Oberlin College and Temple University. After graduating in 1933, Hopkins headed for New York City, where he worked as an arranger, spending three years employed by band leader Paul Whiteman, and also working for such popular instrumental specialists as Andre Kostelanetz. He'd already begun building a career in radio and theater when military service beckoned, and after a three-year stint in the Coast Guard during World War II, he returned to music as an arranger/composer for bandleader Raymond Paige. As a recording artist, he was active making albums of instrumental mood music (what would later be known as "Space-age pop") for Capitol Records, ABC-Paramount, and later for Verve Records from the mid-'50s through the early '60s). Hopkins made his career primarily in New York during the 1950s, spending ten years as the chief composer and arranger for Radio City Music Hall and also working in a year-long stint as the music director for the CBS radio network in 1963-64. Despite being based on the "wrong" coast, Hopkins was able to work in film music, starting in 1956, with Elia Kazan's Baby Doll and Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men. He maintained a dual career for the next decade, alternating among movies, radio, and theater, with the occasional recording, and even a classical piece or two worked in between these assignments. His film scores also stood out in sharp contrast to much of the competition at the time -- Hopkins became known for writing music that utilized very spare instrumentation and only small sections of the orchestra, proving that less is more where certain dramatic subjects are concerned. The Fugitive Kind and Wild River were successful and he was also the music director and composer on one Elvis Presley movie, Wild in the Country, generally regarded as one of the rock 'n roll star's superior films. Hopkins' work resonated extremely well with urban settings, New York's streets in particular. His score for Robert Rossen's The Hustler was one of the film's highlights, a jazzy, near-minimalist body of music, moody and atmospheric, often with only a handful of instruments audible at any given moment. Hopkins did similarly inspired work on the New York-filmed The Borgia Stick and Mister Buddwing, parts of which later became libraried as "standard" thriller music, although he also ranged to subjects such as Downhill Racer, a look at the life of an arrogant skier played by Robert Redford. Hopkins became the music director of Paramount Pictures' television division in 1970, remaining in that position for three years, which was how he came to be the music director on series such as The Odd Couple, Love American Style, Mission: Impossible, and The Brady Bunch. On Love American Style, his scores skirted romance and comedy, while on The Odd Couple he made inspired use of Neal Hefti's original movie theme in building a new body of underscoring for the series. Hopkins also occasionally served as music supervisor on made-for-television films during this period, including the harrowing prison drama Women In Chains. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

Provided by Rovi