This day in 1921 Nelson Riddle was born in Bergen Co., New Jersey. Today we are celebrating his life and incredible musical legacy a little further south at the Jersey Shore where the family moved to give the undoubtedly gifted youngster every opportunity to pursue his passion for music. Even before graduating from Rumson Fair Haven High School in 1936 Nelson was making his mark on the scene, playing trombone and arranging for the many ‘boy big bands’ that entertained the crowds of tourists that flocked (and still do) to the beach towns of Sea Bright, Long Branch, Asbury Park and further along down south as far as Cape May and Point Pleasant. Since those days Nelson’s horizons broadened and his orchestra and music have found their way into the hears and homes of billions throughout the world and time. It is hard to go anywhere these days without hearing a Nelson chart or performance.
Accolades have been coming in all day through social media and other channels commenting on the music that has been the soundtrack to so many of our lives. Jonathan Schwartz, on his WNYC radio show said this morning “I cherish this man, I cherish his work… Don’t come after me when I say that he was a genius!”. Of course we here at the Nelson Riddle Foundation are in biased agreement with Jonathan’s words but one cannot deny that the good will and positive vibes generated by Nelson’s arrangements are nothing short of phenomenal. Whether it be “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” or a tune that gives you that ‘kick in the head’ there is a Nelson piece that can be paired with most of our life experiences. Even today, almost 30 years after his death, some of the most loved and associative recordings have a Riddle imprint on them be it an arrangement, composition, or performance.
If Nelson were alive today he would have been 93 years old. The photo above was taken shortly before his death in 1985 during a visit from his home in California to the East Coast. Here at South St. Seaport he is pictured with his daughter Rosemary, her husband Joey and Nelson’s grandchildren Michael and Danielle Acerra. Heaven only know what musical wonders Nelson would have produced had he been with us a little longer.
We are very proud to be associated with such a great musical legacy, and look forward to celebrating the man and his music for generations to come.
Happy Birthday Nelson,
francis @ nelsonriddle.org