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Percy Faith

One of the founding fathers of easy listening, but not always the purveyor of pablum he's made out to be. Faith was a child prodigy on the piano, but his hopes for a career as a concert pianist ended when he injured his hands in a fire when he was 18. He switched to arranging and conducting, working in hotel and theater orchestras in Toronto and eventually landing his own radio show on CBC in 1938.

In 1940, Faith moved to Chicago and became a naturalized citizen a few years later. He moved to New York City and worked in radio for a while until he joined the A&R staff of Decca. By 1950, he was working for Mitch Miller at Columbia, who found Faith's rich but not overbearing string work perfect for the sound he was trying to cultivate. Faith began recording instrumentals under his own name in 1951 and soon had a #1 hit with his adaptation of a popular Brazilian song, “Delicado.” Faith had three #1 hits: “Delicado” in 1952; “Theme from 'Moulin Rouge'” in 1953, and “Theme from 'A Summer Place'” in 1960.

Between 1951 and 1976, Faith recorded something like 85 albums for Columbia. Faith's strings and Ray Conniff's choral band gave Columbia a one-two punch that dominated easy listening sales for nearly three decades and now fills the shelves of thrift stores around the country. Conniff and Faith also served as the foundation for the Columbia Record Club, the mail-order outlet that was middle America's primary source of albums. Like Conniff, Faith's worst sin may have been that of being too good a craftsman. He worked strings, woodwinds, and brass together so seamlessly that the result often achieves a surface of schmaltz that belies the fine work underneath. And with that many albums, there is a certain amount of crap to be expected.

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