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The Magic of Animation

October 27, 2019

The Day The Music Died: Remembering Lorenzo Music, Voice of Garfield

On Saturday, August 4th, 2001, actor/writer LORENZO MUSIC died of bone cancer* in his Los Angeles home after "months of brutal, heart-breaking illness," writes friend and associate Mark Evanier. He was 64.

Lorenzo Music was born Gerald David Music on May 2, 1937 in Brooklyn, NY. (According to CNN.com, "Music later took the first name Lorenzo for spiritual reasons, his wife said.") His family moved to Duluth, Minnesota when he was 5. After high school, he attended the University of Minnesota and was actively involved in theatre. According to LorenzoMusic.com (his official site), Music majored in English Literature and minored "in Banjo Playing, Janitorial Work, and Being In A Lot Of Plays." While in college, he also met and fell in love with Henrietta, a female drama student whom he would later marry...and remain faithful to through 4 children and 41 years, right up until his death. They also performed a comedy act together for 8 years -- in the mid-70s, they even had their own syndicated TV series for a short while: The Lorenzo and Henrietta Music Show.

In 1959, he began to pursue acting as a career, but it was as a writer where he found his first true success, becoming "one of the hottest sit-com writers of the 1970s" (according to The Duluth News Tribune) which can be largely credited to his writing for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late 60s. He went on to become creator, writer and producer for some of the most popular shows of the 70s (primarily produced by MTM Enterprises): The Bob Newhart Show (described as the "pet project" of Music and David Davis); The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off Rhoda. Music also co-wrote the theme song "Home to Emily" for The Bob Newhart Show with his wife Henrietta, and for the first 2 years of The Mary Tyler Moore Show he served as "the audience warm-up man, who came out and interacted with the studio audience each Friday night, and introduced the cast members."

September 1976 marked the broadcast debut of the aforementioned The Lorenzo and Henrietta Music Show -- an hour-long comedy/variety program starring The Musics, and supporting cast: Samantha Harper, Dave Willock, Bob Gibson, Erick Darling, Sandy Helberg, and Murphy Dunne. Music also co-produced and co-wrote the show with Lewis Arquette, according to Jim Beaver (via Usenet).

The Music's show featured "folk music with acting tips and woodworking," explains fan Susan Sparks (via Usenet). The duo wrote and performed music for the show as well as with their "acoustic folk-country star" guests, and Lorenzo played the banjo, according to another Usenet source.

"The premiere had Mary Tyler Moore as the guest," writes fan Brad Ferguson, via Usenet. "And Music interviewed Carlton the Doorman. (They had a P.A. speaker sitting in the chair opposite

The series lasted barely a month, possibly because it was on the air in the wrong decade -- it was just a little out of place during the disco era. [An interesting note of trivia to add here: During this time, canned laughter tracks were used extensively (and gratuitously) on TV sitcoms. According to suck.com, the Music's show "featured Carroll Pratt working his Laff console on camera, a sop to the postmodern malaise and a boffo joke in and of itself."]

"Lorenzo and Henrietta also starred in a pilot for The New Lorenzo Music Show that same year (actually prior to the above series and thus, despite the 'New' in the title, probably the pilot for the above show)," adds Beaver. "It was, however, a sitcom ABOUT a guy who hosts a variety show. It also starred David Ogden Stiers, Jack Eagle, Steve Anderson, Roz Kelly, and Lewis Arquette. It was produced by Carl Gottlieb (Jaws), and directed by Tony Mordente (of West Side Story)."

In 1980, Music developed and provided the lead voice for a fully animated pilot episode Carlton Your Doorman - a spin-off of the live-action sitcom Rhoda. It was intended to be a prime-time animated TV series, according to Evanier. And though the series was never produced, "the pilot won an Emmy as the best animated special of its season."

But with all his writer/producer credits, Lorenzo Music will still be remembered first and foremost for his unique voice and his preference to keep his face from the public eye. "He craved anonymity and didn't want his picture published," Craig Lincoln wrote in an obituary for the Duluth News Tribune.

"Lorenzo would at one time vanish at the sight of cameras," says Greg Burson. "He didn't want a face associated with the Voice."

In January 2001, in a personal quest to find a photo of Lorenzo where he wasn't wearing his trademark dark sunglasses and hat, I asked Mark Evanier why it seemed like Lorenzo was still clinging to his anonymity even in the present and he replied, "It was just a publicity stunt thing he did for a time. He was actually on-camera on many shows before it. The last time we discussed it, he indicated that he felt he'd gotten all possible mileage out of the gimmick and was no longer going to hide his face."

Apparently, this "notion...flowed from all the curiosity he'd aroused when playing the never-seen Carlton on Rhoda," said Evanier. "Thereafter, his publicity photos showed him in silhouette, or with something in front of his face, and he declined all TV interviews that would not present him that way. Although he had appeared occasionally on TV before, the stunt had its intended effect of arousing attention. People began wondering about the face that went with the voice and he often chuckled that he was becoming 'semi-famous' for not being seen."

For animation fans, his definitive role - his legacy, perhaps - will always and forever be his endearing and entertaining performance as the voice of Garfield the Cat in such memorable made-for-TV specials as: Here Comes Garfield (1982); Garfield on the Town (1983), an Emmy Award-winning animated special which he also co-wrote with Garfield creator Jim Davis; Garfield's Halloween Adventure (1985); Garfield Goes Hollywood (1987); the Holiday classic A Garfield Christmas (1987); and the hugely popular animated series Garfield & Friends (1987) which was a mainstay on CBS for 7 successful seasons.

Some of Music's other voice credits include:

  • The original voice of Peter Venkman on The Real Ghostbusters (1986)
  • Tummi -- Disney's The Gummi Bears (1985)
  • Super-Pac -- Hanna-Barbera's Pac-Man (1982)

  • Larry, of Vince & Larry: The Crash Dummies who became pop culture icons in the "Buckle Up For Safety" campaign for The NHTSA. These popular public service announcements very nearly resulted in landing an animated TV series starring the two driving safety spokesdummies Vince (voiced by Jack Burns) and Larry, though "renamed Slick and Spin for the toys and pilot," according to animation historian Dave Mackey.

  • James Madison and Robert E. Lee in Stan Freberg's very entertaining comedy album "Stan Freberg Presents The United States of America, Volume 2: The Middle Years" (1996).

  • Guest roles on "Darkwing Duck" (1992), Talespin (1990), Fantastic Max (1988), The Jetsons (1962), and The Drew Carey Show (1996), just to name a few.

  • "Millions of TV spots" and "billions of radio commercials", according to LorenzoMusic.com.

  • Carlton the Doorman -- Rhoda (1974) - a series which he also co-developed, wrote and produced for MTM.* Carlton never appeared on-camera, which was a large part of his appeal - only his voice was heard over the intercom in Rhoda's apartment. (Carlton had so much appeal, in fact, that at one time there was a Carlton Fan Club.) Lorenzo himself described Carlton as being "in his 20's, blond, skinny with sloping shoulders, messy hair and droopy eyelids. Carlton is lazy, Carlton is slovenly, Carlton is a moocher and a lush."

    * For futher information on Music's credits with MTM (as well as some miscellaneous trivia on his work with the company), visit MTMShow.com.

    + Additional voice credits appear courtesy of Voice Chasers and The Internet Movie Database.

His voice and personality were one-of-a-kind, and he was well loved and admired by those who knew him and his work. This is evident from the quotes and personal anecdotes from his friends, fans and associates -- collected below from all corners of the web:

From Jim Heffernan (college friend): He could not imagine a life outside of show business, and he fashioned a life in show business and a pretty good one at that. He never gave up on show business, and it never really gave up on him.

From J. Michael Straczynski (associate; Story Editor on The Real Ghostbusters): I knew Lorenzo Music while we were doing [The Real Ghostbusters], but not afterward; we never really hung out or anything. He [was] a roundish, friendly kind of guy. We always had to separate him from Frank Welker and Maurice [LaMarche] in the sound studio, because if they were *ever* in close proximity, all kinds of hell would break out. When Lorenzo was still doing the show, Frank learned to mimic his voice. So one day, in taping, when Lorenzo missed his cue, Frank supplied his line...in [Lorenzo’s] voice. Lorenzo looked around with a "What the hell was THAT?" look on his face.

From Corey Burton (associate; Voice cast member with Lorenzo on Disney's Gummi Bears): My first exposure to Lorenzo was a taping of 'The Bob Newhart Show' way back when, and he came out before the show [and] between scene changes to speak to the audience. He was a very interesting man. I worked with him on 'Gummi Bears.' Always admired him but didn't get to know him very well. He was very intelligent, very talented - he knew what he wanted from the performance. His acting was very subtle, organic - had a certain shading to it. He was very funny, very dry and very entertaining.

From Jess Danis (friend and associate; Lorenzo's voiceover agent at International Creative Management, Inc.): He was one of the most lovingly eccentric people I’ve ever known, a one-of-a-kind. He was seemingly irreplaceable in our business.

From Mike Herlihy (fan): Lorenzo Music was one of those people that I've always enjoyed following. Probably because not enough people knew who he was. When I was in High School (Fairfax in LA), I had a friend that had a crush on Mary Tyler Moore. He went to all of the tapings and I went to a couple. Lorenzo would always do the 'warm up' for the show, this is when someone comes out and gets the audience in the mood to laugh for the sound track. My friend got me to ask for the 'famous jellybean trick'. Lorenzo was happy to oblige. He took a jellybean and threw it up into the lights (TV studios are very high to allow for all of the equipment), and then he would catch it in his mouth.

I also got to see him do this prior to tapings of Rhoda (I remember it was the honeymoon show), and Bob Newhart. He had a very distinctive laugh (Haw, haw, haw), and if you listen carefully to the laughter you will hear him still. In fact I was watching All in the Family the other night and heard him, as I recall he also did the warm up there, even though it wasn't an MTM production. His own show was sadly short lived, his inner beauty didn't shine as brightly through the TV as it did in person. Still I've always enjoyed listening for his infectious laughter, and I always will.

Craig Crumpton (fan; Host: The Voice Actor Appreciation Group, and the author of this tribute article): I've been an avid enthusiast and researcher of cartoon voice actors since the early 1980s, and Lorenzo's voice was among the first I learned to identify. The unique quality of his voice and his endlessly entertaining performances quickly made him one of my favorites. I have especially fond memories of his voice on account of my family's annual holiday tradition of sitting down together to watch "A Garfield Christmas." It features my all-time favorite performance from Lorenzo. Ever since the first time I saw the TV special, whenever I've heard his voice, I've always been reminded of Christmas -- some of the happiest times of my childhood and being with my family. I so closely associate his voice with such pleasant memories of time spent with my family that losing him is a bit like losing a brother, or a very close friend, even though I never had the chance to meet him.

From Ted Arnold (friend): Lorenzo was certainly one of, if not my best, friend. I will miss his emails, his phone calls, and everything else one misses from the security one gets from a friendship of 39 years.

From Greg Burson (associate; fellow cartoon voice actor): I remember a time when Lorenzo was riding the zenith of the commercial world with his highly identifiable voice. He had deciced to increase his market share with different approaches and treatments. He presented these to Chris at Radio-Ranch. Chris excitedly exclaimed these are terrific, great in fact .......but they're all Lorenzo. Lorenzo certainly left his signature with everyone. I'm sure he's now the official spokesperson for heaven. He will be missed. From Valerie Harper (friend and associate; Star of Rhoda): Valerie's heart is breaking, but Rhoda is certain that Carlton the doorman is giving St. Peter at the gate a run for his money.

From Kim Campbell (friend and associate; Director of Public Relations: Paws, Inc -- Garfield's Headquarters): I was the lucky person at Garfield-land selected to 'handle' Lorenzo. Actually, Lorenzo was much better at handling me and graciously, patiently walked me through the murky waters of voice-over land. I never had a conversation with him that wasn't either enlightening or entertaining. How many people can you say that about? Lorenzo was compassionate, warm, honest, quick, and always, always very dear.

From Jim Davis (friend and associate; Creator of Garfield): When we held auditions for the voice of Garfield, I wasn't exactly sure what we were looking for -- I just knew I'd know it when I heard it. After dozens of auditions, I began to feel uncertain we'd ever find the right Garfield. Then Lorenzo Music sat at the [microphone]. That was it -- I knew it. He had the perfect dry wit and laconic delivery that helped define the character. He was a huge talent, and a very nice man. Garfield will miss him terribly -- we all will.

From Henrietta Music (Lorenzo's wife): The most compelling thing about him was the sort of relentless, easy, every day humor. He had a dry, sharp wit and it was quick. He was cracking jokes [last] Thursday; we were all sitting around in his room. From Mark Evanier (friend and associate; Writer, Co-Producer and Voice Director for Garfield & Friends): He was — like his distinctive, well-known speaking voice — unique. Those who cast him as a voiceover performer often said that just to hear him, no matter what the script or ad copy, was curiously comforting and satisfying. That was absolutely true, and it was an extension of the man himself. He walked through life with a warming aura of creativity about him...one that enveloped all who came near. To be in his presence was to feel smarter, wittier, more creative and, of course, happier — all by osmosis. He had so many gifts, one body could not contain them all. They were always leaking out, enriching others.

As the writer (and later, co-producer and voice director) of [Garfield & Friends], I came to truly appreciate his acting abilities. He was a thinking performer who would instantly grasp what had been written and, as often as not, come up with a way to maximize the humor. His suggestions were nearly always good, and contributed to making Garfield a truly memorable animated personality. Lorenzo was an enormously versatile, brilliant man with interests in a hundred different directions and talents he never had time to fully flex.

He wrote music and poetry, he produced short stories for his own and his friends' enjoyment, and he even participated in a dance troupe. For a time, he donated one night per week to taking calls on a suicide hot line. The callers never knew his identity but occasionally, one of them would be pouring out a story — "my wife left me, I'm broke, I have an incurable disease," etc. — and would suddenly blurt out, "Hey, you know you sound like that cat on TV?" He leaves behind a terrific family, a legacy of friends who were introduced to one another and inspired by his kindness, and a whole lot of fans. To those of you who never had the chance to know him, I have to say... I'm sorry. [His] work was wonderful, and I know you'll enjoy watching it again and again and again. But being around Lorenzo Music was even better.

For other related links, browse Lorenzo's category at The Voice Actors Ultimate Links Treasury. We at Toon Zone wish to extend our sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of a very talented actor, writer, voiceover artist, producer, performer and musician. For any fans curious to know if there is still some way to honor his memory, Mark Evanier shares, "The family has requested that anyone wishing to make a donation in Lorenzo's name may do so to:" The Subud International Cultural Association 5828 Wilshire Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90036 I can think of no better way to conclude this tribute (written to honor Lorenzo's memory) than to include what Kim Campbell shares from a recent e-mail she received from Lorenzo, which he ended with a familiar refrain from a song written by Irving Berlin: Blue skies, smilin' on me. Nuthin but blue skies, do I see. Kim adds, "Here's to blue skies for Lorenzo from now on." Rest in Peace, Lorenzo - thanks for all the laughs and wonderful memories. You will not be forgotten.

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Colorists: Carolee Karpell, Amelie Swann

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