May 29, 1953
Los Angeles, California, United States
Composer, Musician, Singer
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Because he hailed from the annals of rock music and was never a classically trained musician, Danny Elfman struggled to gain acceptance among his peers on the road to becoming one of Hollywood's most prolific and respected film composers. Elfman began his career in the late-1970s as the singer-songwriter of the acclaimed rock band Oingo Boingo, which developed a significant following in Southern California, but failed to reach national prominence. Unable to quell occasional rumors that others had written his own scores, he found success to be the best revenge, particularly in his long-running collaboration with director Tim Burton. In fact, Elfman worked with the director on most of his films, including "Batman" (1989), "Sleepy Hollow" (1999) and "Big Fish" (2003) - the latter of which earned him an Academy Award nomination. Though he often cited Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Bartok as his favorite classical composers, Elfman felt greater affinity to classic Hollywood composers Bernard Herrmann, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Miklos Rozsa and Franz Waxman, whose influence were heard in his scores for "Men in Black" (1997) and "A Simple Plan" (1998). By the time he composed his Oscar-nominated score for "Milk" (2008), Elfman had gained the respect of his critics while becoming one the top echelon composers working in Hollywood.Born on May 29, 1953 in Los Angeles, CA, Elfman was raised by his father, Milton, a teacher, and his mother, Blossom, a noted author of children's books and a screenwriter. Elfman spent a lot of time in his youth going to movies and learning music from film composer Bernard Herrmann, whom he considered to be his mentor despite never having met with him or even studied with anyone else. After his parents moved from Baldwin Hills to Brentwood, Elfman attended University High School in Los Angeles, but he dropped out and moved to Paris where his brother, Richard, was living. While in France, he played his violin in the streets and joined Le Gran Magic Circus, an avant-garde musical theater group. Elfman then spent an entire year wandering about western Africa with little contact with his family. It was on this quiet, lonely sojourn that he discovered African pop called Highlife - a mix of reggae and salsa with horns - that proved to be influential on his later style. Meanwhile, Elfman reunited with Richard in Los Angeles, where the brothers assembled the bizarrely-named Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, a musical troupe that was a semi-theatrical band that offered both improvisational music and dramatic performances.In 1976, Elfman stepped forward to become the band's primary songwriter and lead vocalist after Richard began moving towards filmmaking. Two years later, the Mystical Knights broke up and Elfman reformed the band as simply Oingo Boingo, a high-energy polyrhythmic band with frenzied horns that burned up the Los Angeles club scene throughout the 1980s. Though wildly popular in Southern California, Oingo Boingo failed to catch on nationally to the same extent. Meanwhile, he began composing film scores with "Forbidden Zone" (1980), a weird mess of a movie that only appealed to fans of Elfman's band. Five years later, Elfman began a long and fruitful creative collaboration with director Tim Burton on "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" (1985), for which he composed a zany fun house score. After writing the memorable title song for "Weird Science" (1985) with Oingo Boingo, Elfman reunited with Burton to compose the music for "Beetlejuice" (1988) and "Big Top Pee-Wee" (1988), both of which allowed him to hone his skills for creating impish, antic and even lush symphonic scores that added a wrinkle of wry wit, dark grandeur and twisted sentimentality. By the time he composed the score to "Batman" (1989), the relationship between Elfman and Burton was forever solidified.Elfman continued to work with some of Hollywood's top directors, including Sam Raimi, who hired him to compose the score for his superhero action flick, "