H.W. Spencer; Composer and Arranger


Herbert W. Spencer, a composer and arranger whose credits in Hollywood began when musical pictures were preeminent in the 1930s and continued through Oscar nominations for “Scrooge” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” in the 1970s, has died.

David Raksin, the composer of “Laura” among many other popular songs, said Spencer was 87 when he died Friday in Los Angeles.

“This is a town full of composers and arrangers,” Raksin said Monday. “I’m one of the good ones. Herb was one of the great ones.”


A native of Chile, Spencer began in music playing reeds with the Vincent Lopez Orchestra after convincing his parents that he was not interested in the engineering career they had envisioned for him.

He later did the scoring for the early radio broadcasts of the Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and Glenn Miller bands. In 1935 he signed on with 20th Century Fox as an assistant to musical director Alfred Newman. At Fox he helped score “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Tin Pan Alley,” “Mother Wore Tights,” “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and others. More recently he was involved with helping orchestrator and conductor John Williams with the “Star Wars” and “Superman” scoring. His last film was “Home Alone.”

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences nominated him for Grammys for “Jaws” and “The Towering Inferno.” In 1982 he received the Golden Score Award from the American Society of Music Arrangers.

Survivors include his wife of 53 years, Diana, a son, three daughters and a granddaughter. A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. at Pierce Brothers Westwood.