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Henry Mancini Honored on US Postage Stamp - 2004-04-02

This month, composer Henry Mancini will be honored on a U.S. postage stamp to celebrate his 40-year career of writing music for the movies.

For decades, he was the leading composer of film scores, earning 20 Grammy awards and four Oscars.

From Charade to Breakfast at Tiffany's, Henry Mancini wrote music for some of Hollywood's leading movies.

He also wrote for the small screen, composing the score, for example, for television detective Peter Gunn.

But his compositions for films will be best remembered. Some, like Days of Wine and Roses, became classics in their own right.

Henry Mancini died of pancreatic cancer 10 years ago, but his widow, Ginny, says he lives on through music.

Mrs. Mancini was a singer named Ginny O'Connor when she met him soon after he left the army in 1946.

She was looking for a job. She had just left a group called the Mel-Tones, whose members did backup vocals for popular singer Mel Torme.

"So when the vocal group disbanded, I went to an audition for Tex Beneke, who was looking for a lead singer at the time, and who should be playing for my audition but a young 22-year-old tall handsome Italian by the name of Henry Mancini," she said.

And the rest, as they say, is history. The two married and settled in Los Angeles. In 1952, the struggling young composer joined the Universal Studios music department. He later left to work on his own and would write the scores for more than 100 movies.

"He really did want to write for film, and he loved putting music to the images on the screen and bring the film to life," said Ginny Mancini.

The new Henry Mancini stamp features an image of the composer with a list of some of the major films he scored. In the corner is the cartoon image of the Pink Panther, which was seen in the opening sequence of the 1964 comedy of the same name.

"The image is a wonderful image of him in a conducting mode, and not at all formal," said Ginny Mancini. "He was a fun, informal kind of guy, and the artist's rendering really captured the essence of Henry Mancini, and his cool and his youthful spirit."

Ginny Mancini says she wants to make a statement as the U.S. postal service honors her late husband.

"I want to make a statement for music education in our schools with this stamp," she said. "I want to promote music and arts education as much as I can, using the stamp as an example, because had he not had music in school, he never would have ended up on a postage stamp."

Mrs. Mancini also wants to publicize a training program for young musicians that keeps alive her husband's legacy. Called the Mancini Institute, it brings together musicians with industry leaders for seminars and practice every summer. She says the program carries on her husband's work.

"He was a great music mentor to young people and he related to young musicians in a very wonderful way and inspired them," she said. "I just think his legacy will live on, and certainly Moon River will be here long after we're all gone, I think."

Henry Mancini would have been 80 on April 16, when the U.S. postal service will honor him with a new U.S. postage stamp.