Blackwing Biography Series: Nelson Riddle

Nelson RiddleBlackwing Biography Series: Nelson Riddle

Nelson Riddle, an American-born composer, orchestrator, and bandleader, was an avid user of the Eberhard Faber Blackwing. His work with Capitol Records helped define a generation of big band. He worked with Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, and even more modern greats like Linda Ronstadt and Johnny Mathis.

A collaboration with Ol’ Blue Eyes, though, is probably what launched his updward career, in a reluctant (on Sinatra’s part) collaboration with “I’ve Got the World on a String”. In the late 60s, Riddle joined Sinatra at Sinatra’s new record label, Reprise Records, and arranged Strangers in the Night, Sinatra’s #1 pop album.

Riddle’s career took him to television and movies, arrange scores for soundtracks. He won his first Academy Award after writing the score for the 1974 version of The Great Gatsby, with Robert Redford, Sam Waterston and Mia Farrow.

He revived his career in 1982, just a few years before his death in 1985 (because of liver failure), by working with Linda Ronstadt. Wikipedia says:

Ronstadt recalls that when she approached Riddle, she did not know if he had ever heard of her – he had not. He hated rock ‘n’ roll, but his daughter was a Ronstadt fan and told her father, “Don’t worry. Her checks won’t bounce.”

Riddle is seen in this photo clearly using a Blackwing. He was known to keep dozens of razor-sharp Blackwings in his studio, on his desk or his piano.

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