The Kennedy Center

Michael Kamen


A successful musician with the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble, Michael Kamen is best known as a composer.  He is a popular composer of scores for film and television, producing classical as well as rock works.  He has won several awards for his musical compositions although he never formally studied the subject.
Kamen was born in New York City on April 15, 1948.  He was exposed to music from an early age by his parents.  He studied piano when he was two years old, and later learned guitar, clarinet and oboe.  He attended the LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, and later majored in music at the Juilliard School in New York.
While a student at Juilliard, Kamen was a member of a jug band performing folk-blues.  He 1965, he co-founded the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble, which combined classical and rock music.  He was the lead singer and he played the oboe.  The Ensemble was doing well in the 1970’s following the success of their album Roll Over.  By 1972 after five albums, the band broke up.
Kamen began composing by writing orchestrations for the Ensemble.  By the late 1960s and early 1970s, he was asked to write classical pieces for the Harkness Ballet, Joffrey Ballet and La Scala Opera Company.  He also wrote orchestrations for rock singers, such as for David Bowie, Kate Bush, Eric Clapton and Aerosmith.
In the 1970s and 1980s  Kamen wrote several film scores, Zacariah, The Next Man, Polyester, and Brazil.  He also composed the scores for Lethal Weapon and its three sequels.  He wrote the music for The Three Musketeers (1994), Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995), 101 Dalmatians (1996), and Open Range (2003). 
The multi-talented composer also produced scores for television, and was involved in writing and conducting music for two Olympic games - the 1996 Summer Olympics and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. 
Kamen was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1996, but he was able to continue working until his death from a heart attack on November 18, 2003 at his home in London.
Michael Kamen


  • The New Moon in the Old Moon's Arms
  • "License to Kill"