Michael Kamen's film scores and orchestral arrangements dominate the list of Grammy nominees

THE GRAMMY'S MAN OF THE HOUR

February 25, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

Unless you're the kind of music fan who enjoys reading the fine print, odds are that you've never heard of Michael Kamen. That's not to say you haven't heard him; between his film scores and the orchestral arrangements he has written for rockers ranging from Kate Bush to Eric Clapton to Metallica, Kamen definitely gets around.

Tonight, in fact, Kamen is likely to be all over the 34th annual Grammy Awards broadcast (8 p.m. on CBS, Channel 11). Not only is his score for the Kevin Costner film "Robin Hood"' up for three Grammys -- Best Pop Instrumental, Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or Television, and Best Arrangement on an Instrumental -- but "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You," a song Kamen wrote with Bryan Adams and Robert John "Mutt" Lange (he did the music, they did the words) is up for four more awards, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

And if that weren't enough, Kamen's string arrangements are featured on three other nominated recordings: Eric Clapton's "24 Nights" (Best Rock Vocal Performance,Solo); Queensryche's "Silent Lucidity" (Best Rock Vocal Performance, Duo or Group); and Metallica's "Metallica" (Best Metal Performance With Vocal).

Consider him the stealth candidate.

"Lots of Grammys, yeah," he chuckles, over the phone from his home in London. "I haven't actually seen the list, but there are a lot of projects, like Queensryche and Metallica, that I do have something to do with. It feels good."

Not that he understands why he has suddenly become Grammy night's "Man of the Hour." All he can do is suggest that he "worked a lot" last year. "That's all I can say," he insists. "I was very busy, and although it doesn't always happen, a lot of what I worked on became very successful."

Is it just luck, then?

Perhaps, but at least part of his success seems to be a matter of fate, for if ever a man was destined to score "Robin Hood," it's Michael Kamen.

"My working knowledge of 'Robin Hood' goes back to when I was 6 or 7 years old, and the Richard Green television series was on the air in the States," explains the New York-born composer. "The funny part of it was, I grew up in a slightly left of center household, and there was something about the stealing from the rich and giving to the poor that always reverberated, went down very well.

"I've never let go," he adds. "I used to run around the woods in upstate New York with a bow and arrow. Unfortunately in those days, I think I was hunting Maid Marian rather than looking to make love to her." He laughs. "Slight confusion at 6 years old."

Even so, Kamen admits that his original idea of how the score should sound changed after he saw what had actually been shot for the film. "At one point, I wanted to write the score for a very traditional medieval band," he says.

"But when I actually started looking at the footage, I realized that wouldn't work, that the size of the score had to match the size of the film. 'Robin Hood' is about love and about life and those huge human emotions. The breadth of it could only have been accomplished with a huge orchestra."

Not that it was all done with orchestra -- there was also the "hit song," which Kamen believes is entirely within the tradition of the Robin Hood legend.

"The fact is that we recognize 'Robin Hood' from the ballad, not from the books," he says. "There's no literary tradition of 'Robin Hood' to speak of, but there is a great song tradition. It was entirely fitting that the ballad of Robin Hood in 1991 to be a pop ballad with a rock and roll singer."

Kamen, by the way, takes no credit for casting Bryan Adams in the role. In truth, he originally saw the song as being sung by a woman.

"When I finished the song for 'Robin Hood,' I wanted Kate Bush to sing it," he says. "Because she was working on her record, that didn't happen. Then I went to Annie Lennox, and she was also working on a solo album. Then it was handed over to Morgan Creek [the company that produced 'Robin Hood']. And they went with Bryan."

Not that Kamen is complaining. Adams' version of the song turned out to be the hit of the year, spending weeks on end at No. 1 on pop charts around the globe.

"It was ridiculous," he says. "Here it was on the charts for something like 18 weeks. It would make the news every night."

Eventually, it got to be something of a running joke. "A mummy from the paleolithic period that was found in the ice somewhere in Austria," Kamen recalls. "And the lead story on BBC-1 news was, 'A 5,000-year-old mummy was found today in the ice near Austria. Upon waking, the first thing it asked was, 'Is Bryan Adams still number one?' "

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