Francis Lai was born on April 26, 1932, in Nice, France, the son of market gardeners of Italian origin. From a very early age Lai was fascinated by music and he played first in his local regional orchestras. In Marseilles he discovered jazz and met Claude Goaty, a singer of popular songs in the 50s.
While in his twenties, Lai left home and followed Goaty to Paris, where he became part of the lively Montmartre music scene. The "Taverne d'Attilio" on the Place du Tertre in Montmartre, was a favorite place for the young talented Bernard Dimey with whom Lai composed his first song. Their song-writing partnership would extend to a hundred or so. After a short period with the orchestra of Michel Magne, Lai became accompanist for Édith Piaf and also one of her composers.
In 1965 he met filmmaker Claude Lelouch and was hired to help write the score for the film “A Man and a Woman”. Released in 1966, the film was a major international success, earning a number of Academy Awards. The young Lai received a Golden Globe Award nomination for "Best Original Score". This initial success brought more opportunities to work for the film industry both in his native France, where he continued to work with Lelouch on scores to films such as “Vivre pour vivre” (1967), “Un homme qui me plait” (1969), “Le voyou” (1970) and “La bonne année” (1973), as well as in Great Britain and the United States. He was known for his support of Mireille Mathieu in many compositions and recordings. In 1970 he wrote the score for director René Clément's film, “Rider on the Rain” ("Le passager de la pluie"). It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc in September 1971.
In 1970 Lai won the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score for the film “Love Story”. In the United States, the soundtrack album went to No. 2 in the Billboard album charts and the film's theme, "Where Do I Begin", was a hit single with lyrics by Carl Sigman for traditional pop singer Andy Williams. The song would also be recorded successfully by Lai himself, with a full orchestra, and by Henry Mancini and Shirley Bassey. Lai's "Love Story" theme was heard in the 1978 Love Story sequel titled Oliver's Story, although the main score was composed by Lee Holdridge.
His movie scores included films as diverse as “Mayerling”, “Three into Two Won't Go”, International Velvet, Édith et Marcel, and Michael Winner films such as “I'll Never Forget What's'isname” and “Hannibal Brooks”. Lai also had success with music written for softcore erotic films like “Emmanuelle 2” (1975) and “Bilitis” (1977).
In a career spanning forty years, Lai also wrote music for television programs and alone or in collaboration with others he composed music for more than one hundred films and personally wrote more than six hundred songs. Notably, he penned the music for the Perry Como hit "I Think of You", with lyrics by Rod McKuen.
In 1968 Lai married author Dagmar Puetz. The couple had two sons and one daughter. He died on November 7, 2018, at his home in Paris. He was 86.
LAI, Francis (Francis Albert Lai) [4/26/1932, Nice, Alpes-Maritimes, France – 11/7/2018, Nice, Alpes-Maritimes, France] – composer, songwriter, singer, musician (accordion), actor, married to Dagmar Puetz (1968-2018) father of astronomer Oliver Lai, one other son and a daughter, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Soundtrack Academy ,
Lifetime Achievement Award, Ghent Film Festival .
In the Dust of the Sun – 1971
Song: "Sur notre etoile" sung by Francis Lai
The Legend of Frenchie King – 1971
Another Man, Another Chance – 1977