David Shire was born on July 3, 1937, in Buffalo, New York. His father, Irving Shire, was a piano teacher and band leader. While studying at Yale, Shire met Richard Maltby Jr., who would become his long-time collaborator. While studying at Yale, Shire and Maltby wrote two musicals, Cyrano and Grand Tour, which were produced by the Yale Dramatic Association.
Upon graduation, Shire studied for one semester at Brandeis University and then spent six months in the National Guard infantry. Leaving the infantry behind, Shire moved to New York City and began working as a dance class and rehearsal pianist, while still working on musicals with Maltby. Their first show, The Sap of Life, premiered off-Broadway in 1961. While working as a musician, Shire played in the pit of the original productions of The Fantasticks and Funny Girl. Shire went on to work as Barbra Striesand’s accompanist for many years, even writing and arranging her television special Color Me Barbra.
Throughout his career in the theatre, Shire has worked closely with Maltby. Together they have written two off-Broadway revues (Starting Here, Starting Now and Closer Than Ever), and two Broadway shows (Baby and Big). Shire received Tony nominations for Best Score for both Broadway shows. The two also worked on a musical Take Flight, which premiered in London in July 2007.
Branching out from theatre, Shire began to score for film and TV during the 1960s and 1970s. He married actress Talia Shire and began to write some of his most recognizable work. Shire wrote the scores for Saturday Night Fever, The Big Bus, and Return to Oz. For his work on Saturday Night Fever, Shire received two Grammy nominations and won the Academy Award for Best Song in 1979. However, his best known score is for The Conversation, a film by his then-wife’s brother, Francis Ford Coppola. Shire created a score for piano and distorted the sounds in different ways to create alternative textures. For his work in television, Shire has received five Emmy nominations. He has scored for hundreds of shows including The Heidi Chronicles, Oprah Winfrey’s The Women of Brewster Place, and Christopher Reeve’s Rear Window.
In addition to his film and TV work, Shire has conducted many orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Munich Symphony. He wrote many songs for the PBS children’s series Shining Time Station, which starred his current wife, Didi Conn, whom he married in 1982. Shire has two children, Matthew and Daniel, and continues to compose music to this day.
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