VIDEO: A Conversation with Legendary Songwriter-Composer-Champion, Perry Botkin, Jr.

In honor of the beloved arranger-producer-film composer, songwriter of “Nadia’s Theme,” “Bless The Beasts and the Children,” Nilsson & Phil Spector co-writer, and more

Perry Botkin, Jr. 1933-2021
Photo by Paul Zollo/American Songwriter

Legendary and beloved songwriter/composer/arranger/friend Perry Botkin, Jr. died on January 18, 2021 in Burbank. He was 87.

I was among the lucky ones who had the privilege and good fortune to know him. I also interviewed him live in August, 2016 at The Songwriting School of Los Angeles. In honor and memory of Perry – a great songwriter, song champion and friend to so many in our community – we’re happy to share that interview today.

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Live interview with Perry Botkin, Jr. August 27, 2016.
At The Songwriting School of Los Angeles, produced by Rob Seals.

Perry Botkin, Jr. was not only one of Hollywood’s most accomplished and impactful figures – a great film composer, as well as songwriter, arranger and producer – he was one of the most beloved. I first came to know him through two friends who had worked with him, and loved him for his gentle, humble spirit and his vast musical talent.

Van Dyke Parks once told me he feels one of our jobs in life is to connect people. He’s done that many times for many people through the years, including this writer. The first was when I first met him back in 1988 and he asked, “Would you be interested in talking to my friend Harry?” He meant Harry Nilsson, and yes, I was.

He has done it other times too – and always with people who mattered a lot, ultimately, in my life. There was legendary film music editor Else Blangsted, who became one of my greatest friends. And there was Perry Botkin.

Else Blangsted, who worked with both Perry and Van Dyke on the Jack Nicholson film Goin’ South, also confirmed that Perry was great. Anyone who got invited to her monthly composer’s club – such as Perry, Van Dyke, and other well-known composers of film and TV music – were people who were not only successful in music, but also in friendship. She suffered no fakes or phonies.

Else Blangsted & Perry Botkin at Art’s Deli, Studio City, 2017.
Photo by Paul Zollo/American Songwriter

And he was the real deal. His father, Perry Botkin, Sr. was a great musician, also–the guitarist for Bing Crosby for years, and banjoist and guitarist on the “Beverly Hillbillies” TV show soundtrack, a one-man Flatt & Scruggs.

Perry Jr. played trombone, piano, bass and other instruments. But also became a skilled arranger; he arranged many classic records, including Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” and “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano.

His instrumental theme song for “The Young & The Restless” became “Nadia’s Theme” when used by the Olympic champion Nadia Comenici, evidence of his great melodic skills. With Barry DeVorzon, he wrote the theme song – and the score – for Bless the Beasts and the Children.

He championed Harry Nilsson from the start, and wrote songs with Harry Nilsson and Phil Spector (“Paradise,” for the Ronettes).

Mike Stoller & Perry Botkin, June 17, 2016 at the Alex Theater for a musical tribute to Stoller’s partner in song, Jerry Lieber. Photo by Paul Zollo/American Songwriter

But that’s just scratching the surface of his remarkable life in music. I’m grateful I was able to discuss all of it at length with him in our interview, which was produced by Rob Seals atThe Songwriting School of Los Angeles. Van Dyke Parks – among other luminaries – was in the house with us that night.

Perry Botkin at The Songwriting School of Los Angeles, 2016.
Photo by Paul Zollo/American Songwriter

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