Gary LeMel, the music supervisor on such huge-selling soundtracks as The Bodyguard, The Big Chill and Ghostbusters, died last Saturday at age 80. No cause was immediately released, but LeMel suffered from dementia for the last few years.
Born in London, LeMel and his family moved to Tucson, Arizona at age 10. He dropped out of college to tour with jazz singer Anita O’Day, then moved to Los Angeles to pursue a singing career. Unfortunately, the rise of the British Invasion in music wiped out the market for jazz standards, so LeMel pursued another career path.
LeMel’s long career as an executive included early stints in music publishing and artist management. He hit his stride at First Artists, a film production company formed as a partnership between Barbra Streisand, Sidney Poitier, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. There he handled the soundtrack for Streisand’s 1976 remake of A Star Is Born, which sold four million copies on the strength of the No. 1 hit Evergreen.
He moved to Columbia Pictures in the early 1980s, then moved to Warner Bros. He was behind 1992’s Whitney Houston soundtrack for The Bodyguard, which became the best-selling soundtrack in history at 45 million copies. It featured Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” as its centerpiece.
That success led LeMel to be named president of worldwide music at Warner Bros. and CEO of the Warner Sunset soundtrack label.
His executive triumphs ultimately gave him the courage to resume his singing career, and he released several albums via Blue Note Records, Atlantic and Concord.
While his artistic side thrived, LeMel also continued in his “day gig” as an executive, helming soundtracks on the Harry Potter franchise, among other albums. He was honored with the Music Supervisors Legacy Award in 2017 by the Guild of Music Supervisors.
Survivors include his wife, Maddy, and three children.