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French Pianist And Composer Michel Legrand Dies At 86

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

When French composer Michel Legrand died Saturday at the age of 86, he was celebrated for many achievements. There were his three Academy Awards, his more than 200 film and TV scores and his romantic melodies for such top 40 hits as "The Windmills Of Your Mind" and the theme from the "Summer Of '42." As Jeff Lunden reports, there was even more to Legrand.

JEFF LUNDEN, BYLINE: In his summer of 1942, Michel Legrand was preparing to attend the Conservatory of Music in Nazi-occupied Paris and study with the famed Nadia Boulanger. He told The Guardian in an interview last September, quote, "she was so demanding, but she was extraordinary. She made me."

(SOUNDBITE OF PERFORMANCE OF MICHEL LEGRAND'S "HARP CONCERTO")

LUNDEN: Legrand really was a musical polymath. He devoted much of the latter part of his life to classical composition. This is his "Harp Concerto" from 2014.

(SOUNDBITE OF PERFORMANCE OF MICHEL LEGRAND'S "HARP CONCERTO")

LUNDEN: But one of Legrand's lifelong loves was jazz. He heard Dizzy Gillespie's big band in Paris after the war and eventually worked with him and with other jazz greats like John Coltrane and Miles Davis.

(SOUNDBITE OF MICHEL LEGRAND AND MILES DAVIS' "THE DREAM")

LUNDEN: Jazz informed some of Legrand's film scores. He collaborated with director Jacques Demy in 1964 on "The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg" in which all of the dialogue is sung.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (Singing in French).

LUNDEN: Michel Legrand was already booked with a full slate of concerts this spring when he died on Saturday.

(SOUNDBITE OF MICHEL LEGRAND'S "SOUS LES PONTS DE PARIS")

LUNDEN: For NPR News, I'm Jeff Lunden in New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF MICHEL LEGRAND'S "SOUS LES PONTS DE PARIS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.