Johnny Mandel Dead, Oscar-Winning Composer Of ‘MASH’ Theme Song Dies At 94

The legendary composer and arranger wrote one of the most famous theme songs of all time.

Honoree Johnny Mandel attends the 41st Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Ceremony at The New York Marriott Marquis.
Gary Gershoff / Getty Images

The legendary composer and arranger wrote one of the most famous theme songs of all time.

Johnny Mandel has died. The Grammy, Emmy, and Academy Award-winning composer, arranger, instrumentalist, and record producer passed away at age 94, Variety reported. No cause of death was given.

Mandel scored dozens of TV and movie soundtracks, most notably the theme song to the 1970 film MASH. The instrumental version of the song, titled “Suicide is Painless,” later became the theme for the long-running TV series of the same name.

The legendary composer scored more than 30 films during his lengthy career, including The Sandpiper — which included the Oscar- and Grammy-winning song “The Shadow of Your Smile” — as well as music for An American Dream, Agatha, Being There, Escape to Witch Mountain, Freaky Friday, Caddyshack, Deathtrap, and The Verdict. Mandel was also the man behind the iconic jazz score for the 1958 Susan Hayward film, I Want to Live.

Mandel also composed music for the 1965 TV series Mister Roberts and the 1980s sitcom Too Close for Comfort, as well as Bob Hope’s Chrysler Theatre.

The composer collaborated with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson during his career. His work earned him five Grammys, including one for his arrangement for Natalie Cole’s 1991 classic album, Unforgettable. The legendary musician also worked with Diana Krall, Michael Bolton, Barry Manilow, and the jazz vocal group Manhattan Transfer.


Mandel Decided He Wanted To Be A Musician When His Father Died

Johnny Mandel, David Foster, Leonard Cohen and Taylor Swift attend the 41st Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Ceremony at The New York Marriott Marquis on June 17, 2010 in New York City.
  Larry Busacca / Getty Images

Mandel’s interest in music began more than 80 years ago. In a 2008 interview, the iconic composer said he decided he wanted to be a musician as a young boy when his older cousin came to see him at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles in 1937 on the day of his father’s death. Mandel was 11 years old at the time.

“A cousin I never knew existed had come to visit, and the day my dad died I spent the day with him,” Mandel told JazzWax. “He was a drummer with Harry Reser’s Clicquot Club Eskimos….He told me he was going out on the road with Reser. Mel said he was a drummer. I said, ‘You mean you’re a drummer all the time?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I play with this band, and we play at different dances.’ I said, ‘Wow, is it fun?’ … Later I discovered that most band and jazz guys became musicians because they could get girls easily. And I was one of them.”


His Death Is Being Mourned By The Music Industry

Composer Hans Zimmer (L) and songwriter Johnny Mandel talk at the 18th Annual ASCAP Awards honouring Film and Television composers at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 30, 2003 in Beverly Hills, California.
  Kevin Winter / Getty Images

On social media, many of Mandel’s fans and colleagues reacted to his death, including longtime friend and collaborator Diana Krall, who described him as a unique and “beautiful” songwriter. Krall wrote that she feels nothing but gratitude and love for her late friend.

In a Twitter post, which can be seen here, singer Michael Buble described Mandel as his “hero” and one of his favorite writers, arrangers, and personalities.

“He was a beast,” Buble captioned a photo of the late music legend.

Actor and comedian Dane Cook posted a clip of Mandel’s famous MASH theme song and wrote that the song played endlessly in his house when he was growing up.

“RIP Johnny Mandel,” he wrote.