Henry Mancini was born in Cleveland, Ohio on April 16, 1924 to an Italian immigrant couple, Quinto and Anna Mancini. Henry found his love for music through his father who was an expert at playing the piccolo and the flute. After moving to a small town outside Pittsburgh named Aliquippa, he started attending piano classes from the concert master of Pittsburgh Max Adkins and that is where his interest in playing piano really grew. After high school, Henry joined the Carnegie Institute of Technology to study music, which he left in 1942 to join the Julliard School of Music. His time there was also ended prematurely when he joined the military in World War II. There he was introduced to the Army Corps Band and started playing piano and arranging music for them after he got discharged from service. He met his future wife Ginny here too who use to sing for the band. After marrying her in 1947 he left the band and joined Hollywood.
Mancini started off as a private musician and arranger for nightclubs and different radio programs. After joining Universal-International Film department at Hollywood studios in 1952, he wrote scores for an Abbott and Costello movie which got him the job of “house arranger”, which meant he provided all musical assistance needed to any program or film. For writing scores for the film Glenn Miller Story (1954), he got his first Academy Award nomination. His breakthrough film Touch of Evil inspired him to introduce jazz performers for playing scores. This however caused tension and Mancini left the Universal-International Film department.
Soon afterwards though, he was hired by a former Universal-Film director Blake Edwards to create music for a television program called Peter Gunn (1958). The program was a success and the theme music got Mancini his first Emmy Award nomination. He also won two Grammys from it. Further work with Blake on Mr. Lucky (1959) won him another Grammy nomination. Blake hired Mancini again to create music for his film Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) in which the song Moon River, which Mancini created with lyricist Johnny Mercer, got him and Mercer two Oscar Awards, one in the Original Song category and one in Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy category. The song also won five Grammy Awards. Mercer and Mancini became a famous duo and in 1962 the lyrics and composition of The Days of Wine and Roses got them another Oscar for Best Original Song. Next year Mancini created one of his greatest masterpieces, the famous theme song of The Pink Panther (1963). The song got a nomination for a Grammy and an Oscar. It also got Henry Mancini the American Society of Composers and Performers (ASCAP) Award which is an award given for music most performed in television and box office. The huge success of this theme turned Mancini into a Hollywood legend. He continued working with Edwards for another 25 years and got nominated 72 times in Grammy Awards out of which he won 20 and 18 Oscar Awards out of which he won four. He also got nomination for two Emmys.
Mancini had a long and incredible career that spanned over four decades in which he captured the hearts of all Hollywood audience. After struggling against cancer for a long time, Mancini passed away on June 14, 1994. In 1997, Jack Elliot created the Henry Mancini Institute to honor Mancini. The Institute works to promote music by providing rigorous training to young musicians.