Dennis Farnon, who had been the last surviving founder of the Recording Academy, died last month at age 95, Billboard has learned. He died on May 21 of natural causes in Aalst, Buren, Netherlands.
Farnon co-founded the Academy in 1957 with Sonny Burke, who died in 1980; Lloyd W. Dunn, who died in 1991; Paul Weston, who died in 1996; and Jesse Kaye, whose date of death is unknown.
All five founders were top executives at leading record companies of the period. Farnon was from RCA; Burke, from Decca; Dunn, from Capitol; Weston, from Columbia; and Kaye, from MGM.
The Recording Academy grew out of a request made by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for names of musical artists who merited inclusion in its Walk of Fame, which was being developed in the mid-1950s. These label execs formed a music committee, but as they worked to compile a list, they realized there were more recording artists who deserved recognition than could ever be honored with a bronze star.
The first Grammy Awards, for the year 1958, were presented on May 4, 1959. The Grammys were the last of the four EGOT awards to be created. The first Oscars were presented in May 1929, the first Tonys in April 1947 and the first Emmys in January 1949.
Farnon, who was born in Toronto in 1923, was a composer, arranger and conductor. In the 1950s, Capitol hired him to serve as musical director for singer Johnny Holiday. In 1956, RCA tapped him to head its West Coast A&R department. During that time, the Dennis Farnon Orchestra recorded numerous albums, including Chet Atkins in Hollywood and Velvet Carpet–The George Shearing Quartet.
In the early 1960s Farnon moved to London and composed music over the next 20 years. His movie credits include the score for the 1966 Tony Curtis film Arrivederci, Baby!
Both of Farnon’s older brothers, Brian and Robert, were also successful orchestral composers, arrangers and conductors.
Dennis Farnon is survived by his wife of 40 years, Thea; his daughter Joanna by his first marriage to Christine Farnon; and daughters Katherine and Andrea and son Christopher by his second marriage to the late Helena Farnon.
Christine Farnon, who was divorced from Dennis Farnon in 1960, was the first full-time employee at the Recording Academy in 1957. She rose to the position of executive vp, the title she held when she retired from the Academy 1992.