by Jason Ankeny
A prolific composer of film and television music, Bill Conti remains most closely associated with his work on the successful Rocky films. Born April 13, 1942 in Providence, Rhode Island, he learned piano from his father, and later took up the bassoon. While studying composition at Louisiana State University, Conti also performed with the school's symphony orchestra, spending his evenings playing jazz in area clubs; he subsequently earned his Master's degree from Julliard before relocating to Italy in 1967. There he first broke into films, composing and arranging music for productions including Juliette de Sade and Candidate Per un Assassino. In 1971 Conti scored Vittorio de Sica's Oscar-winning Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini, bringing his music to the attention of international audiences; he subsequently returned to the U.S., where he composed the soundtracks for features including 1973's Blume in Love and 1974's Harry and Tonto.
Conti shot to fame in 1976 with his score for Rocky; the soundtrack album went platinum, and the main theme, "Gonna Fly Now," topped the U.S. pop charts. Conti and star Sylvester Stallone subsequently reunited for chapters two, three and five in the Rocky series, as well as 1978's F.I.S.T. and Paradise Alley; in 1981 he scored the James Bond feature For Your Eyes Only, scoring a Top Five hit with the title track, sung by Sheena Easton. After two previous nominations, Conti won an Oscar in 1983 for his work on The Right Stuff; at about the same time he became a prolific composer of televison themes, writing music for series including Dallas, Falcon Crest, Cagney and Lacey and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. He also served as musical director for a number of Academy Awards telecasts, winning an Emmy for his work on the 1992 ceremony.