John Addison (Jock) was a resourceful, creative and talented composer who entered into the world of scoring movies during the late 1940s. His first assignment being The Guinea pig in 1948, a film that starred a fresh-faced Richard Attenborough. Born in West Cobham, Surrey, in the United Kingdom on March 16th 1920, Addison studied at the Royal College of Music in Kensington London. He concentrated upon composition, conducting, oboe, piano and clarinet. After his initial foray into writing music for film Addison rapidly established himself as an artist who was at home within any genre of film, and one who was also able to adapt easily to any situation that arose whilst working on a project.
The composer/conductor reached what many would call his creative musical high point during the 1950s with the commencement of the British film industries revival. His sprightly semi-classical melodies and at times temperamental jazz-infused scores enhanced and graced many of the “coming of age” movies that were being produced during this period. Because of his ability to be flexible, Addison’s talent and versatility as a film music composer soon became apparent within his soundtracks to productions such as Look back In Anger (1959), School For Scoundrels (1960), A Taste Of Honey (1961), Guns at Batasi (1964), The Honey Pot (1967), and his Oscar winning score for Tom Jones(1963).
Addison continued to be in demand as a film music composer throughout the 1960s and in 1966 caused something of a stir within the movie music fraternity when Alfred Hitchcock asked him to score Torn Curtain. This was after the filmmaker had rejected long term collaborator Bernard Herrmann’s music for the picture. It was also during the 1960s that Addison worked on films such as A Fine Madness(1966) and The Charge Of The Light Brigade (1967) for Director Tony Richardson, whom he had a fruitful creative partnership with. Addison remained active during the 1970’s, working on projects such as Mr Forbush And The Penguins (1971) and Sleuth (1972) for which he received an Academy Award Nomination in the category of best original dramatic score.
In 1976 he worked on Sir Richard Attenborough’s world war ll epic A Bridge To Far. This was a project close to Addison’s heart as he had served with the XXX corps during the war and Attenborough’s movie told the story of the ill-fated operation market garden in Belgium where many members of the XXX corps lost their lives. The composer did not actually take part in the operation but felt a strong connection with the men who did (Addison himself was wounded at Caen during the Normandy landings in 1944).
It was during the mid 1970’s that Addison re-located to the USA, firstly settling in Los Angeles, then moving to Vermont in 1990 where he remained until his death in 1998. It is ironic that he will probably be best remembered for the work he did for the small screen whilst in the United States as opposed to his numerous film scores. His enduring and endearing theme for the popular CBS series Murder She Wrote, still remains well-liked today thanks to repeated screenings of the show on cable television. Addison’s spirited theme opened more than 250 episodes of the series, earning him an Emmy. He also worked on the epic TV series Centennial for NBC during 1978-1979, scoring all twelve episodes and Ellis Island was another TV assignment in 1984 for the CBS network. Plus the composer scored a handful of motion pictures during the 1980s these included, Strange Invaders (1983), Grace Quigley (1985) and To Die For (1989).
All the time that Addison was composing for film and television he continued to write “serious” music or music for the concert hall. His Bassoon Concertina was premiered in Manchester in the UK, during 1998. John Addison passed away on December 7th 1998 in Bennington Vermont, USA, after suffering a stroke.