Ralph Carmichael, composer and Emmy Award-winning arranger-conductor for Nat King Cole, Jack Jones, Ella Fitzgerald and Roger Williams, died Oct. 18 in Camarillo, Calif. He was 94.
Carmichael got his big break when Capitol Records producer Lee Gillette was introduced to his arrangement in the 1950s. This led to the prolific collaboration between Carmichael and Cole, starting with Cole arranging the 1960 Christmas album “The Magic of Christmas” which was re-packaged in 1962 as “The Christmas Song.” Carmichael and Cole produced nine full studio projects together including Nat’s final sessions in 1964 for the album “L.O.V.E,” more collaborations with Nat than any other arranger. He was also a primary arranger/conductor for pianist Roger Williams, creating 20 albums together including the 1965 hit “Born Free.”
Carmichael also wrote charts for TV shows such as “My Mother the Car” and “I Love Lucy” as well as movie scores, including “The Blob,” “4D Man” and “The Cross and the Switchblade.” Additionally, Carmichael came to be considered the “father of contemporary Christian music, given his focus on creating religious music in the 1960s. Composer of over 300 gospel songs, Carmichael’s compositions include “The Savior Is Waiting,” “There Is A Quiet Place,” “Reach Out to Jesus” and “He’s Everything to Me.” His songs have been recorded by Elvis Presley, The Carpenters and numerous others.
Carmichael was born May 27, 1927 in Quincy, Ill. to Rev. Richard and Adelle Carmichael. In 1944, he moved to California to pursue a college education and had lived there ever since. In his early 30s, he wrote and conducted arrangements for artists such as Frankie Laine, Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, Stan Kenton, Peggy Lee, Fitzgerald and Jones.
Carmichael is survived by his wife Marvella; children Andrea, Greg and Erin; grandchildren and great grandchildren; nieces and nephews.