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10 June 2015

James Last dies, aged 86

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2 hours ago

James Last dies, aged 86

The easy listening bandleader, who released more than 200 albums, passed away at his home in Florida

James Last … Fronting his orchestra in 1974.
Photograph: Cine Text/Sportsphoto Ltd /Allstar

James Last has died, aged 86. 
The easy listening bandleader “passed away yesterday [Tuesday] in Florida, peacefully and in the presence of his family”, his manager said.
Over the course of a recording career that lasted from 1959 to 2011, Last released more than 200 albums, many of which were themed. He released albums devoted to the music of Abba, Motown, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Bach and Vivaldi, among others. On 1980’s Caribbean Nights – one of seven albums he released that year – he even covered three Bob Marley songs, and belied his blue-rinse-and-bingo image with a cover featuring a topless woman.
Last was born in Bremen, Germany, in 1929, and learned to play music in the Wehrmacht during the second world war. After the war he became a musician in dance bands, then an arranger and bandleader. His breakthrough as a recording artist came with his 1965 album Non-Stop Dancing – one of many released under the Non-Stop Dancing umbrella title – which was in effect a medley of pop hits of the day. His 52 charting albums in the UK made him the second most successful albums artist of all time, after Elvis Presley, and he sold more than 100m albums during his career.
In a 1976 interview with the NME, Last attributed his success to the familiarity of the songs he played, and the distinctive sound of his orchestra. “People know what James Last is playing. That’s the style. And there are so many bands playing in the world with no style. I think we’re making something original from this music. And our sound is coming from the arrangements. We have our own style in music, it must be, because otherwise I don’t think it’d be so successful. And I think it’s a big help to us that bands, like Bert Kaempfert, are just playing one kind of music – when we play a lot of different things.”


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