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Obituaries

Electronic music pioneer Jean-Jacques Perrey, who wrote famous Disney parade jingle, dies

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 November, 2016, 2:06pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 November, 2016, 2:07pm

Jean-Jacques Perrey, the French composer and pioneer of electronic pop music who was best known for co-writing Baroque Hoedown used as the music for the Main Street Electrical Parade at Disney theme parks, has died at age 87.

Perrey died in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Friday “from a very quick and violent lung cancer,” his daughter, Patricia Leroy, said.

Electronic music composer Dana Countryman, in a tribute to his frequent collaborator posted on Facebook, noted that Perrey began recording electronic music in 1952, long before the Moog synthesiser was first offered for sale in 1967, calling him “truly the pioneer of popular electronic music.”

“His crazy, happy music has been heard everywhere, from commercials to Sesame Street — in hip-hop songs, in dance remixes and most famously, for decades in the delightful featured music in Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade. In recent years, his music has even made appearances on The Simpsons and on Comedy Central’s South Park,” Countryman wrote.

Watch: Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade

In the mid-1960s, Perrey teamed with the American composer Gershon Kingsley to record two groundbreaking electronic pop music albums, The In Sound From the Way Out and Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Electronic Pop Music From Way Out! The latter included Baroque Hoedown which became known to millions of people worldwide when it was used as the music for the Main Street Electrical Parade at Disneyland and other Disney theme parks.

Perrey was born January 20, 1929, in a small village in the north of France, and as a child began playing an accordion he received as a Christmas present. While attending medical school in Paris, he met the inventor Georges Jenny, who had created the Ondioline, an electronic keyboard that was a forerunner of the synthesiser. It was able to produce new and original sounds as well as sounds from instruments such as the violin and flute.

Perrey quit medical school, taught himself to play the piano by ear, and was hired by Jenny to be a sales representative and demonstrate the Ondioline. He developed a cabaret act using the Ondioline that he called “Around the World in 80 Ways” and performed throughout Europe.

Perrey became one of the first Moog synthesiser musicians, recording such albums as Moog Indigo and Moog Sensations in the early 1970s for Vanguard.

Jenney returned to France in 1970 where he created radio and TV commercials, worked as musical director for a ballet company, recorded movie soundtracks, and composed jingles and cartoon music for French TV. He also conducted research into therapeutic music for insomniacs.

The hip-hop group Beastie Boys honoured the Perrey and Kingsley duo on a 1996 instrumental album, which borrowed the title “The In Sound from Way Out!”

After a nearly 20-year hiatus, Perrey resumed his recording career in the late 1990s. He recorded several albums with Countryman, including “The Happy Electropop Music Machine” in 2006.