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Composer and performer Robert Drasnin (November 17, 1927-May 13, 2015) was born in Charleston. He performed with classic combos and big bands such as Tommy Dorsey and Les Brown, while his 1959 release Voodoo remains a classic of the “exotica” genre.

Drasnin’s parents were immigrants from Eastern Europe who met while working at a munitions factory in Nitro. At the age of 10, Drasnin moved with his family to California. While attending Los Angeles High School, he joined a county-wide, all-star band on sax and clarinet. The group landed a job providing the music for Hoagy Carmichael’s NBC radio show. After the early 1950s, Drasnin worked primarily as a studio musician and arranger.

Drasnin, who earned a master’s degree in composition at UCLA, became an associate conductor of the UCLA Symphony. In 1966, he wrote the score for CBS Playhouse’s Death of a Salesman, which was produced by David Suskind. During that period he also wrote the scores for 26 made-for-television movies as well as two feature films, John Huston’s The Kremlin Letter and an early Jack Nicholson western, Ride in the Whirlwind. He eventually became musical director for CBS television where he scored shows including Lost in Space, The Wild, Wild West, and Mission: Impossible.

In the mid-‘90s, Drasnin began touring with guitarist Skip Heller and, in 1997, recorded an album of standards titled The Blue Dahlias. He issued Voodoo II in 2007. Drasnin continued to teach film music composition at UCLA. He was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2008. In 2015 he died after suffering a fall. He was 87.

This Article was written by Michael Lipton

Last Revised on December 14, 2017

Cite This Article

Lipton, Michael "Robert Drasnin." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 14 December 2017. Web. 22 March 2018.


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