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Entertainment & Arts

Electronic music pioneer Jean-Jacques Perrey, of Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade fame, dies at 87

Jean Jacques-Perrey co-wrote the theme song for Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade.
(Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times)
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French composer Jean-Jacques Perrey, whose music has contributed to the pop-culture landscape in places ranging from Disneyland to television shows including “The Simpsons” and “South Park,”  died Friday. He was 87. 

Perrey died in Lausanne, Switzerland, “from a very quick and violent lung cancer,” his daughter, Patricia Leroy, told the Associated Press. 

His most recognizable work is perhaps “Baroque Hoedown,” which Perrey co-wrote with collaborator Gershon Kingsley in 1967. Featured on their album “Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Electronic Pop Music From Way Out,” the song became the theme for Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade in 1972. Its whimsical melody has been heard in all subsequent iterations of the attraction at Disney theme parks around the world.

Born in a small village in France on Jan. 20, 1929, Perrey was a medical student when he met inventor Georges Jenny, the creator of the Ondioline. The electronic keyboard was capable of creating a wide variety of sounds and was a precursor to modern synthesizers. Perrey quit medical school and began working for Jenny selling and demonstrating the Ondioline. 

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“For those who don’t realize it, Jean-Jacques first started recording electronic music in 1952, long before the Moog synthesizer was first made for sale in 1967,” wrote electronic music composer Dana Countryman in an online tribute to Perrey, his friend and collaborator. 

In 1960, Perrey moved to New York where he began experimenting with sounds while appearing on TV with the Ondioline. Perry also composed jingles for TV and radio during this time. He became one of the first Moog synthesizer musicians, releasing albums such as “The Happy Moog,” “Moog Indigo” and “Moog Sensations” in the late ’60s and early ’70s. 

“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.


“His techniques of crafting uniquely unrecognizable tape-manipulated sounds, splicing them into melodically-rhythmic sequences and building arrangements around these sounds that, themselves, point towards other periods of musical expression, have been huge inspirations for the intersections of time and texture I like to play with,” Gotye (of “Somebody That I Used to Know” fame) wrote in a Facebook tribute. The Australian-Belgian musician has been working on a Perrey tribute show with the Ondioline Orchestra. 

During his career, Perrey released nearly two dozen albums as a solo artist and with collaborators. 

“If he were here today, there is nothing that Jean-Jacques would like more than to think that his fans were playing his crazy, funny, catchy Moog music right now — and smiling, instead of being sad,” wrote Countryman

Twitter: @tracycbrown

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