News Column

Aberdeen native still making music in Hollywood

July 31, 2013


July 31--Before lyricist Hal David died in 2012, Aberdeen native John Cacavas collaborated with David on six albums.

Cacavas wrote music for the albums that were done for Universal's music production library. They were recorded in London and Prague.

"One was a Christmas album. A couple were romantic albums," Cacavas said in a recent phone interview. "We had a big orchestra, choir, soloists, all that." The producers had deep pockets, he said, so no expenses were spared.

The albums are not for sale to the general public. They are licensed for use in television shows and movies.

David was best known for his work with composer Burt Bacharach. Together, they wrote "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," "This Guy's in Love with You," "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" and "Walk On By."

Cacavas, who graduated from Aberdeen Central in 1948, conducted the orchestra for those albums.

The album work was David's last project. "He and his wife were in London with us for the last recording," said Cacavas wife, Bonnie Becker Cacavas, who graduated from Central in 1951.

Cacavas, who lives in Beverly Hills, Calif., said David was a wonderful guy. "He was very talented and he was great to work with. We had a great relationship, and he's sorely missed."

Even though Cacavas will turn 83 on Aug. 13, he is still making music.

He plans to do something more in the future. "I don't know what it's going to be, but something will turn up," said Cacavas, who is also a composer, songwriter and arranger.

Bonnie said her husband's mind is always active. "He's always writing in his head," she said. "He has a lot of things ready to go for another album if he wants to push that. But it's a matter of what interests him at the end, because right now he's also working on a book."

The book, Cacavas said, is a comic novel about a hospital.

Cavavas is known most for his music.

He worked on "Hawaii Five-O" for three years. Cacavas didn't write the show's famous theme song. But he composed music for many episodes.

"The producer was a great fan of contemporary music," he said. On that show, "I had a nice-size orchestra." Every show was different, he noted.

His work on that series took place in California rather than Hawaii. By the time Cacavas got involved, each show was wrapped up.

He also worked on "Kojak" for five years. That program had two theme songs. Cacavas wrote the second one.

Cacavas got into the film music business with the help of actor Telly Savalas, the star of "Kojak." They met at the London Hilton. Cacavas said he'd produce an album for Savalas if the actor helped him get into the movie business. "He said, 'You got a deal,' " Cacavas said.

Savalas delivered on the promise. The actor simply told the producer of 1972's "Horror Express" that Cacavas would do the music. On 1973's "She Cried Murder," the producers were reluctant to work with Cacavas because they'd never heard of him. So Savalas pretended to be sick for a day until they complied, Cacavas remembers.

Cacavas wound up composing music for "The Bionic Woman," "Mrs. Columbo," "The Equalizer" and many other TV series and movies.

One Cacavas piece was used as the theme song of a 2005 video game "Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories." The song, "March Popakov Remix," was sampled by DJ Danger Mouse. The music, Bonnie said, was a piece Cacavas wrote many years ago. It was discovered in a music library.

Cacavas and his wife collaborated on his autobiography, "It's More Than Do-Re-Mi: My Life in Music," which was published in 2003. He also wrote two other books, "Music Arranging and Orchestration" in 1975 and "The Art of Writing Music: A Practical Book for Composers and Arrangers" in 1993.

Cacavas wrote another novel, "A Song For Lynbidium." That book is "very funny," Bonnie said.

The plot concerns bungling, tone-deaf aliens that invade Earth to bribe or steal the best talents to teach them how to make music.

Because of its subject matter, "I always thought we should have gotten it to (Steven) Spielberg," Bonnie said.

Cacavas said the couple doesn't get back to Aberdeen much since his mother passed away. Barbara Cacavas died in 1997.

The last time the couple returned to Aberdeen was in 2010, when Bonnie was inducted into the Central Hall of Fame. Cacavas entered the Central Hall of Fame in 2006.

Recently, the Cacavases had lunch with 1974 Central graduate Rob Richards, who is the house organist at Disney's El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Formerly Rob Letherer, he will go into the Central Hall of Fame in September.

The Cacavases have lived in the same Beverly Hills house since 1973.

They have three children. One of them, John Jr., is a vice president at Columbia TriStar Motion Pictures Group.

Jenny is a film editor. Lisa was a costume designer and now designs jewelry.

Bonnie thinks "that the time goes fast and faster every day. There's never enough time to do the things you want to do. It's a wonderful, easy place to live. The weather is conducive to living easily. It's easy to get around and go places." They both like to read, they have friends and life is good, she said.

They both have fond memories of Aberdeen. "It was a great place to grow up," Bonnie said.

Follow @JeffBahr_AAN on Twitter.

John Cacavas

Who is he? A composer and conductor who was born in Aberdeen Aug. 13, 1930. He is best known for his television scores, such as one of the two themes to "Kojak." His film scores include "Airport 1975" and "Airport '77." Cacavas also wrote "Autumn Once Again."

Two Hall of Famers: He and his wife, Bonnie Becker Cacavas, are both members of the Aberdeen Central Hall of Fame. They live in Beverly Hills, Calif.


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