Van Alexander

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Van Alexander
Van Alexander.jpg
Background information
Birth name Alexander Van Vliet Feldman
Born (1915-05-02)May 2, 1915
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died July 19, 2015(2015-07-19) (aged 100)
Los Angeles, California
Occupation(s) Bandleader, composer, arranger
Years active 1930–1985

Van Alexander (May 2, 1915 – July 19, 2015) was an American bandleader, arranger, and composer.

Early years[edit]

Alexander was born Alexander Van Vliet Feldman in Harlem, New York City, New York.[1] His mother was a classical pianist, and she taught him to play the piano.[2] He went on to study music at Columbia University.[1]

Alexander led bands and arranged from high school.


He landed a job selling arrangements to Chick Webb in the middle of the 1930s. One of these, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket", became a hit for Webb and Ella Fitzgerald, and subsequently became one of her signature tunes. Alexander later arranged other nursery rhymes for jazz performance, such as "Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?" and "Got a Pebble in My Shoe".[3][4]

In 1938, Alexander formed his own band[5]:459 and played theaters into the 1940s. When Alexander's group disbanded, he and two others from the group joined Larry Clinton's orchestra. George T. Simon, in his book, The Big Bands, quoted Clinton as saying that he had "a package deal from Van Alexander. He had given up his band and joined us, and he brought along Butch Stone and Irv Cottler, whose drumming made all the difference in the world."[5] By June 1942, Alexander had formed another band of his own.[6]

Later in the 1940s, he was hired by Bob Crosby to work in Hollywood, and worked extensively as a composer, arranger and conductor for film scores. Alexander wrote a textbook on film arrangement in 1950 called First Arrangement, and Johnny Mandel studied under him.

Van Alexander in 2013

Alexander's scores included several Mickey Rooney films, such as The Atomic Kid (1954), The Twinkle in God's Eye (1955), Baby Face Nelson (1957), The Last Mile (1959), The Big Operator (1959) and The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (1960), as well as the scores to 13 Frightened Girls (1963), Strait-Jacket (1964), I Saw What You Did (1965) and Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966).

Alexander also provided some of the music for television shows such as Hazel, The Farmer's Daughter, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Dennis the Menace and The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters. He arranged and conducted for variety shows starring Mickey Rooney, Gordon MacRae, Dean Martin and James Stewart. Additionally, he was involved in recording sessions with Kay Starr, Dakota Staton, Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, Dinah Shore, Doris Day and Peggy Lee.


Alexander was nominated twice for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction of a Variety, Musical or Dramatic Program. His 1972 nomination was for his work on The Golddiggers Chevrolet Show, and his 1973 nomination was for his work on The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters.[7] He also received the Henry Mancini Award for Lifetime achievement from ASCAP.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Alexander turned 100 in May 2015.[8] His wife, Beth, died in 2010.[2]


Alexander died on July 19, 2015, of heart failure in Los Angeles.[9] He was survived by two daughters, four grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.[2]


  1. ^ a b Lentz, Harris III (September 2015). "Van Alexander, 100". Classic Images (483): 49. 
  2. ^ a b c "Van Alexander, US bandleader turned composer, died aged 100". BBC. July 20, 2015. Retrieved 13 July 2016. 
  3. ^ "Internet Movie Database". Van Alexander - Biography. IMDb.Com, Inc. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Chadbourne, Eugene. "Van Alexander". AllMusic - Artist Biography by Eugene Chadbourne. All Media Network, LLC. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Simon, George T. (1981). The Big Bands (4th ed.). New York, New York: Schirmer Books. p. 129. ISBN 0-02-872430-5. 
  6. ^ "(untitled brief)" (PDF). Radio and Television Mirror. 18 (2): 7. June 1942. Retrieved 13 July 2016. 
  7. ^ "Awards Search ("Van Alexander")". Television Academy EMMYS. Retrieved 13 July 2016. 
  8. ^ Burlingame, Jon (2015-05-04). "Arranger-Composer-Bandleader Van Alexander Turns 100". FMS Feature. The Film Music Society. Retrieved 2015-05-06. 
  9. ^ Jon Burlingame (2015-07-19). "Van Alexander, Big-Band Leader and Film-TV Composer, Dies at 100". Variety. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 

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