Dean Pitchford

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Dean Pitchford (born July 29, 1951, Honolulu, Hawaii) is an American songwriter, screenwriter, director, actor, and novelist. His work has earned him an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award, as well as nominations for three additional Oscars, two more Golden Globes, eight Grammy Awards and two Tony Awards.

Early life[edit]

Pitchford was born in Honolulu, where he attended Star Of The Sea School and graduated (1968) from Saint Louis High School.

Pitchford began his performance career as an actor and singer with the Honolulu Community Theatre (now Diamond Head Theatre), the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra and the Honolulu Theatre for Youth, among others.

While studying at Yale University, Pitchford performed with numerous campus drama groups, but his focus gradually turned off-campus, where he worked with the Wooster Square Revival, an experimental theatre company that offered acting opportunities to recovering addicts and alcoholics. In 1969, Pitchford returned to Honolulu as a writers’ assistant to authors Faye Hammel and Sylvan Levey, updating the popular guidebook Hawai’i on $5 and $10 A Day, and researching TWA’s Budget Guide to Hawai’i, the first of a series of guidebooks that would eventually metamorphose into the popular series TWA Getaway Guides.

Performing[edit]

In 1971, Pitchford was cast in the off-Broadway musical, Godspell in New York City. He also starred in Godspell at Washington, D.C.’s historic Ford’s Theatre.

Director/choreographer Bob Fosse cast Pitchford as Pippin in the Broadway show of the same name in 1975. While in Pippin, Pitchford acted, sang and danced in over 100 commercials for such products as Dr Pepper, McDonald’s, Lay’s Potato Chips, and M&M's.

Early songwriting[edit]

As a result of performing his early songwriting efforts in cabarets around Manhattan, Pitchford was invited to write with such composers as Stephen Schwartz, Alan Menken and Rupert Holmes. In 1979, he collaborated with recording artist and cabaret performer Peter Allen to write new songs for Allen’s one-man Broadway revue, Up In One.

With composer Michael Gore, Pitchford collaborated on three songs for Alan Parker's motion picture Fame (1980)-- Red Light, a disco hit for singer Linda Clifford; the symphonic/rock finale I Sing the Body Electric; and the title song Fame, which became a multi-platinum, international best seller for Irene Cara. That song earned Gore and Pitchford an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year (1981). They also received a Grammy nomination for Best Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.

When Pitchford was signed by Warner Brothers Publishing (1981) he began collaborating with a variety of songwriters. Among the first songs he wrote with Tom Snow was "Don't Call It Love", first cut by Kim Carnes on her Bette Davis Eyes album (1981), the tune charted in the U.S. country singles top-ten for Dolly Parton in 1985 and was named the BMI Country Song of the Year.

For the ill-fated 1981 movie The Legend of the Lone Ranger, Pitchford wrote a narrative ballad, The Man In the Mask. This was spoken (throughout the movie) and sung (at its beginning and end) by Merle Haggard.

You Should Hear How She Talks About You, another Snow/Pitchford composition, was a Top 5 hit for Melissa Manchester for which she won the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (1983). That same year, Pitchford and Kenny Loggins wrote (with Steve Perry of Journey fame) Don’t Fight It, a Top 20 hit that was Grammy-nominated in the Best Pop Vocal Duo category.

With musical director Michael Miller, Pitchford wrote the theme song for the weekly dance-music show Solid Gold (1980–1988); the theme was first sung by Dionne Warwick, and, in subsequent seasons, re-recorded by replacement hosts Andy Gibb, Marilyn McCoo, and Rex Smith.

Screenwriting[edit]

Inspired by a 1979 news story about Elmore City, Oklahoma, a town which had finally lifted an 80-year-old ban on dancing, Pitchford wrote the screenplay for the motion picture Footloose (1984). He collaborated on the nine-song score with songwriters Eric Carmen, Michael Gore, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins, Tom Snow and Bill Wolfer. The movie, directed by Herbert Ross and featuring a cast that included Kevin Bacon, John Lithgow and Sarah Jessica Parker, opened at #1 and became (at the time) the highest-grossing February release in film history.

When the soundtrack album hit #1 on the Billboard album charts, it deposed Michael Jackson’s Thriller and held that position for 10 weeks. It went on top charts all over the world, eventually selling more than 17 million albums. Kenny Loggins' single of the title song hit #1 on March 31, 1984, and stayed there for three weeks. Five weeks later (May 26, 1984) Deniece Williams’ "Let’s Hear It for the Boy" went to #1, as well. Four more songs from the soundtrack charted in the Top 40 -- "Almost Paradise" (#7 - co-written w/Eric Carmen); "Dancing in the Sheets" (#17 - co-written w/Bill Wolfer); "I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man)" (#22 - co-written w/Kenny Loggins); and "Holding Out for a Hero" (#34 - co-written w/Jim Steinman). "Footloose" was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Song; and "Footloose" and "Let's Hear It for the Boy" (co-written with Tom Snow) both received Academy Awards nominations (1985). Pitchford also received two Grammy nominations: Best Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media, and Best R&B Song "Dancing in the Sheets".

Paramount Pictures' remake of Footloose - again based on Pitchford's original screenplay and featuring six of his songs - was released in October 2011. Blake Shelton had a hit with his re-recording of the title song.

Pitchford also wrote the screenplay, as well as collaborated on all songs, for the 1989 musical film Sing.

Directing[edit]

Pitchford wrote and directed a short film, The Washing Machine Man (1991), for Chanticleer Films; it was invited to be shown out-of-competition at the Sundance Film Festival. That led to Pitchford's hiring as director of HBO's Blood Brothers; The Joey DiPaolo Story(1992), which won that year's Cable Ace Award for Best Children’s Program.

Later songwriting[edit]

With Marvin Hamlisch, Pitchford wrote Welcome, the Invocation for the Opening Ceremony of the 1984 Summer Olympics; it was performed by a choir of 1,000 voices in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

He co-wrote the song Did You Hear Thunder with Tom Snow for the George Benson album While the City Sleeps... (1986).

For the motion picture Chances Are (1989), Pitchford and Tom Snow composed "After All", an international hit for Cher and Peter Cetera which garnered Pitchford his fourth Oscar nomination; and two years later Pitchford's and Gore’s "All the Man That I Need" was a worldwide #1 for Whitney Houston. The soundtrack for "Oliver & Company"(1988), to which Pitchford and Tom Snow contributed "Try Again" sung by Ruth Pointer, was Grammy-nominated.

Pitchford contributed lyrics to Richard Marx's song "That Was Lulu" for Marx's 1989 album Repeat Offender, with whom he also wrote "Through My Eyes" for Martina McBride for the Bambi II soundtrack.

Pitchford worked for many years on a stage adaptation of Footloose, which finally opened on Broadway on October 22, 1998. The original cast recording was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Musical Show Album. After over 700 performances, the show closed on July 2, 2000. The musical continues to be performed all over the U.S. and around the world.

Based on Stephen King's first novel, the stage musical of Carrie, with Pitchford's lyrics (music by Michael Gore, book by Lawrence D. Cohen), was presented by MCC Theatre in New York City as the final offering in their 2011-12 season. A previous production of that show was presented in 1988 by the Royal Shakespeare Company, first in Stratford-upon-Avon in England, and then in a famously short run on Broadway at the Virginia Theatre. The 2012 MCC production was nominated for Best Revival by numerous critics' groups, including the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle. The original cast album was recorded by Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records, and the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization/Imagem Music snapped up the worldwide performance rights to the property.

Australian film star Hugh Jackman won Broadway’s Tony Award for his portrayal of songwriter Peter Allen in The Boy from Oz (2003), in which he sang songs ("Not the Boy Next Door" and "Once Before I Go") written more than two decades earlier by Allen and Pitchford. Jackman repeated his performances of those songs when he returned to New York City in his one-man concert, "Hugh Jackman - Back on Broadway" (2011).

Pitchford contributed songs to The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003); Shrek 2 (2004); Ice Princess (2005); and Bambi II (2006).

Fiction writing[edit]

G. P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Group published Pitchford's first Young Adult novel, The Big One-Oh, in March 2007, and Random House’s Listening Library released the audiobook (read by Pitchford) in January 2008. That recording received a 2008 Grammy nomination in the category of Best Spoken Word Album for Children. Pitchford's second novel, Captain Nobody, was published by G.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Group and released on audiobook by Random House in summer, 2009; that recording received a 2009 nomination in the same Grammy category. Putnam/Penguin published Pitchford's third novel, "Nickel Bay Nick," in 2013.

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