I suppose being in his 80s one shouldn't be totally surprised at the news but it doesn't lessen the blow and sense of loss. I didn't know him personally but felt I did, if you understand what I mean.
Popular amongst film music fans for many years, he recently received an upsurge in popularity amongst young English football fans when his theme for 'The Great Escape' was adopted as the theme for the National football side. Indeed, when he was honoured on 'This Is Your Life' a couple of years ago, a small band of supporters appeared, "playing" it. He was highly amused!
I saw him a few times in concert and never failed to be impressed by his energy, commitment, charm and humour. His films were many and varied and included the groundbreaking jazz score for 'The Man with the Golden Arm', 'The Ten Commandments', 'The Magnificent Seven', 'To Kill a Mockingbird, 'Far from Heaven' (which should have won an Oscar) and, of course, 'The Great Escape'. He will be sorely missed.
We must hope the rest of 2004 brings better news.