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    Posted: 11 Jun 2015 at 3:58am

James Last, bandleader, dies 86

James Last, one of the most popular band leaders of the post-war period, has died in Florida

James Last in 2009
James Last in 2009 Photo: Rex Features

Big band leader James Last has died aged 86 at his home in Palm Beach, Florida.

The final one of his remarkable 90 performances at London's Royal Albert Hall came in April 2015 as part of a farewell tour he announced after becoming seriously ill last year.

The German-born musician sold millions of records and was a regular fixture on UK television for many years with his James Last Orchestra. He pioneered what became known as "Happy Sound".

In a statement, his manager said: "Mr Last passed away yesterday [June 9 2015] in Florida, peacefully and in the presence of his family."

Born Hans Last on April 17 1929, the man always known to friends as Hansi became highly adept at adapting pop hits to big band arrangements and in his lifetime he sold more than 80 million albums worldwide. He performed about 2,500 live concerts during a career spanning five decades, after clinching his first record deal in 1964.

Non-Stop Dancing, released in 1965, was a sensation, and included short performances of popular songs, tied together by dance beats and crowd noises. He worked with many popular musicians, including Cliff Richard, Freddy Quinn, Richard Clayderman and René Kollo. In the UK alone, he had 52 hit albums between 1967 and 1986, cementing him in the record books as the second-best selling artist of all time, behind Elvis Presley. Last said he was proud that Presley recorded his own composition Fool.

Last had a Top 10 hit in America in 1980 with The Seduction, the theme song from American Gigolo, and the bandleader modestly explained his musical ability in his 2009 autobiography, stating: "I am simply lucky enough to be one of the few people in the world who can hear one kind of music and immediately be able to translate it into another without having to think too much about it."

He released albums devoted to the music of Abba, Motown, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Bach and Vivaldi, and also interpreted the music of Bob Marley.

James Last in concert at the Swiss Life Hall, Hanover, Germany in April 2015 REX FEATURES

Last had learned how to play the tuba and the piano as child, before switching to bass as a teenager and learning his trade with the Hans-Gunther Oesterreich's Radio Bremen Dance Orchestra. He was voted as the best bassist in the country by a German jazz poll for three consecutive years, from 1950-1952.

He recently went on a farewell tour, called Non-Stop Music, which took in London and ended in April in Cologne. A public memorial service will take place in Hamburg in the coming weeks. 

from www.telegraph.co.uk

Edited by snobb - 11 Jun 2015 at 3:58am
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