Horace Ott

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Horace Ott
Born (1933-04-15) April 15, 1933 (age 86)
St. Matthews, South Carolina, US
GenresJazz, R&B
Occupation(s)Arranger, songwriter, record producer

Horace Ott (born April 15, 1933) is an American jazz and R&B composer, arranger, record producer, conductor and pianist, noted for his work since the late 1950s with a wide variety of artists including The Shirelles, Don Covay, Nina Simone, Houston Person, Village People, and many more.


Born in St. Matthews, South Carolina, he learned piano and attended Wilkinson High School in Orangeburg, where he played in the school band and started performing in, and writing for, a local jazz band. He studied music at South Carolina State University, graduating in 1955, and spent two years in the US Army from 1956 to 1958, playing in a marching band.[1][2]

In 1958 he moved to New York, working in a factory while playing in nightclubs in the evenings. He met songwriter Luther Dixon, and had his first success writing arrangements for The Shirelles. He worked as a songwriter and arranger with musicians including Jackie Wilson, Don Covay, Hank Ballard, Dee Clark, Sam Cooke, Solomon Burke, and others.[3] He arranged Doris Troy's 1963 hit "Just One Look". In 1964, he co-wrote "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" with Bennie Benjamin and Sol Marcus; the co-writing credit was given to Ott's wife, Gloria Caldwell, because as a BMI member Ott was not permitted to work with ASCAP members. The song was included on Nina Simone's album Broadway-Blues-Ballads, in an arrangement by Ott, and was later a hit for The Animals.[1][4] He continued working with Nina Simone, arranging her 1968 hit "Ain't Got No, I Got Life", and also worked as an arranger in the late 1960s with Aretha Franklin, Eric Burdon, Bessie Banks, George Benson, Mary Wells, Jimmy McGriff, and many others.[5]

In the 1970s, Ott continued as an arranger with jazz and R&B musicians including Houston Person, Bernard Purdie, Rusty Bryant, Gil Scott-Heron, Junior Parker, Lou Donaldson, Richard "Groove" Holmes, The Stylistics, and others.[5] He arranged "You Don't Have to Be a Star", a number 1 hit in 1976 for Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr.. In the late 1970s, he met French writer-producers Henri Belolo and Jacques Morali, and as a result arranged all of Village People's early hits, including "Macho Man", "Y.M.C.A.", and "In the Navy", as well as recordings by The Ritchie Family. Ott has also worked with the Count Basie Orchestra, and on Broadway musicals.[1][6][2]


With Rusty Bryant

With Groove Holmes

  • Night Glider (Groove Merchant, 1973) - electric piano and composer

With Etta Jones

With Jimmy McGriff

With Houston Person

With Bernard Purdie

With Nina Simone

With Dakota Staton

With Joe Thomas

  • Joy of Cookin' (Groove Merchant, 1972) - as composer, arranger and conductor