Jack Nitzsche, 'Needles And Pins' Writer, Dies

Veteran arranger, producer, composer is dead at 63.

LOS ANGELESJack Nitzsche, the veteran pop-rock arranger, producer and sometimes songwriter, who worked with greats such as the Rolling Stones, Phil Spector, Miles Davis and Neil Young, died Friday at Queen of Angels Hospital of cardiac arrest brought on by a recurrent bronchial infection.

Nitzsche, who was 63, arranged some of the most important records in rock history, including the Stones' Beggars Banquet (1968), Young's Harvest (1972) and many of Spector's famed Wall of Sound productions. He also wrote enduring songs such as "Needles and Pins" (RealAudio excerpt) — the classic 1964 hit for the Searchers written with Sonny Bono — and the Academy Award–winning Best Original Song of 1982, "Up Where We Belong" (from "An Officer and a Gentleman"), written with Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Bernard Alfred "Jack" Nitzsche was born on April 22, 1937, in Chicago and was raised on a farm outside of Newaygo, Mich.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1955 to study jazz saxophone but quit music school soon after. In the early '60s, Nitzsche had a fateful meeting with Bono, who was then A&R man for Specialty Records. Bono gave Nitzsche his start in the record business as copyist for the label.

After a stint at Capitol Records, Nitzsche worked as an arranger for Spector. This teaming with the legendary producer began in 1962 with the Crystals' classic "He's a Rebel." Other hits by the pair included the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Baby I Love You," and Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High."

Nitzsche once said of Spector: "Phil and I saw totally eye to eye on everything. That's what made our combination perfect."

After meeting the Stones at a 1964 recording session, Nitzsche played keyboards on some of their early classics including "Play With Fire" and "Paint It Black" (RealAudio excerpt). On the classic Let It Bleed, Nitzsche memorably arranged the choir on "You Can't Always Get What You Want," a staple of album rock radio for more than 30 years.

Nitzsche's work for Young included "Expecting To Fly" (1967) by Young's first successful band, Buffalo Springfield. He also did the elaborate London Symphony Orchestra arrangement on "A Man Needs a Maid," from Harvest, and played frequently with Young's latter-day band Crazy Horse.

Throughout the '60s, Nitzsche produced numerous artists such as Jackie DeShannon, Bob Lind and P.J. Proby. In later years, he produced Willy DeVille and Graham Parker.

Nitzsche was also a sporadic solo recording artist, beginning with the 1963 instrumental "The Lonely Surfer," the title cut of his first solo album for Reprise. Ten years later, he issued an LP of original orchestral pieces, St. Giles Cripplegate.

In recent years, Nitzsche spent a good deal of time on soundtracks, which he dabbled with in the '60s and '70s, most notably on the 1970 Mick Jagger–starring "Performance," "The Exorcist" (1973) and the Oscar-nominated "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975).

Nitzsche's most recent soundtrack work was for two Sean Penn–directed films, "The Indian Runner" (1991) and "The Crossing Guard" (1995). His last arranging work was on an upcoming album from Louisiana rocker Charles "C.C." Adcock.

Nitzsche, who was married first to aspiring singer Gracia Ann May, and then to Sainte-Marie, is survived by Jack Nitzsche Jr., his son with May.