Percy Faith – The Pioneer of Easy Listening

Introduction to Percy Faith

Percy Faith (born 1908 – died 1976) attempted to mollify the loud brass-dominated sound which was the standard of the big bands during his time. The late Canada-born composer/bandleader sought refinement by adding a lush string section to mellow the sound, therefore pioneering and popularizing the “easy listening” or “mood music” genre. His lush renditions of the current pop hits and Christmas tunes earned Faith recognition. A Grammy-award composer, he also scored for films, most prominent work being Love Me or Leave Me starring Doris Day. It earned Faith an Academy Award nomination for best film score. Other works of note include “Theme from a Summer Place”, “Delicado” and “The Song from Moulin Rouge.”

Meet Percy Faith

The Canadian bandleader, composer, orchestra leader and conductor Percy Faith is best remembered for his lush renditions of pop music hits and Christmas standards. Faith also helped define the “easy listening” format in the 50s music era. Born on April 7, 1908 in Toronto, Ontario, he initially learned to play violin and piano when he was young and performed at several theatres, including the Massey Hall in Toronto. Faith was caught in a fire accident from where his hands were severely burnt. As a result, he eventually became a conductor.

Relocating to Chicago in the early 1930’s, Faith worked at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation from 1933 to 1940, doing live-music broadcasting. He later became as an orchestra leader for Carnation Contented program on NBC in the early 1940’s.

Percy Faith’s biggest hits and works for other artists

In the 1950’s, Faith worked as an arranger for several pop singers such as Doris Day, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis (for the album Merry Christmas, 1958) and Guy Mitchell. Faith composed the song “My Heart Cries for You” that became Mitchell’s hit single in 1950, peaking at #2 on the pop chart.

In 1952, Faith scored his biggest with his own version of “Delicado” which peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Faith’s version of “The Song from Moulin Rouge” was the most well-known rendition of the Wiliam Engvick original. Featuring Felicia Sanders on vocals, it peaked at #1 on the national chart in 1953.

In 1961, Faith achieved his first Grammy award for his 1960 single “Theme from a Summer Place,” winning the Record of the Year category. It was another Billboard chart-topper hit for Faith that enjoyed its stay for nine weeks on the pop chart. Along with Elvis Presley and The Beatles, Faith was one of the three artists that made a best-selling single twice in a year.

Later years

In the 1960’s, Faith was into revising pop hits of the decade into orchestral approach. The top-selling record Themes for Young Lovers helped Faith to gain attention from the younger listeners. He scored his second Grammy award in 1969 for the album Love Theme from ‘Romeo and Juliet’ n 1969. In the early 70’s, Faith was consistently making hits and selling records that are now oldies music gems. In his 40 years in the business, he published one country and a couple disco-influenced albums. His last recording he did was a disco-style remake of his previous hit “Theme from a Summer Place,” changing its title to “Summer Place ’76.

Three days before his birthday, the 67-year old Faith died due to cancer on November 27, 1997 in Los Angeles.