Henry Mancini was an American composer, conductor and arranger, best remembered for his film and television scores. He won a record number of Grammy Awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously in 1995. His best-known works include the jazz-idiom theme to The Pink Panther film series, the Peter Gunn Theme from the television series, and back-to-back Academy Awards for the songs "Moon River" from the Blake Edwards film Breakfast at Tiffany's and "Days of Wine and Roses" from the 1962 film Days of Wine and Roses.
Mancini was born and raised Enrico Nicola Mancini in the Little Italy neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the steel town of West Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. His parents emigrated from the Abruzzo region of Italy. Mancini's father, Quinto, was a steelworker, who made his only child begin piccolo lessons at the age of eight. When Mancini was 12 years old, he began piano lessons. Quinto and Henry played flute together in the Aliquippa Italian immigrant band, "Sons of Italy". After graduating from Aliquippa High School in 1942, Mancini attended the renowned Juilliard School of Music in New York. In 1943, after roughly one year at Juilliard, his studies were interrupted when he was drafted into the United States Army. In 1945, he participated in the liberation of a concentration camp in southern Germany.
Upon discharge, Mancini entered the music industry. In 1946, he became a pianist and arranger for the newly re-formed Glenn Miller Orchestra, led by Tex Beneke. After World War II, Mancini broadened his composition, counterpoint, harmony and orchestration skills during studies with two acclaimed "serious" concert hall composers, Ernst Krenek and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.
In 1952, Mancini joined the Universal Pictures music department. During the next six years, he contributed music to over 100 movies, most notably The Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space, Tarantula, This Island Earth, The Glenn Miller Story, The Benny Goodman Story and Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. Mancini left Universal-International to work as an independent composer/arranger in 1958. Soon after, he scored the television series Peter Gunn for writer/producer Blake Edwards, the genesis of a relationship which lasted over 35 years and produced nearly 30 films. Together with Alex North, Elmer Bernstein, Leith Stevens and Johnny Mandel, Henry Mancini was one of the pioneers who introduced jazz music into the late romantic orchestral film and TV scores prevalent at the time.