Percy Faith was a Canadian-born bandleader, orchestrator, composer and conductor, known for his lush arrangements of pop and Christmas standards. He is often credited with creating the “easy listening” or “mood music” format which became staples of American popular music in the 1950s and continued well into the 1960s. Though his professional orchestra-leading career began at the height of the swing era, Faith refined and rethought orchestration techniques, including use of large string sections, to soften and fill out the brass-dominated popular music of the 1940s.
Faith was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He was the oldest of eight children. He played violin and piano as a child, and played in theatres and at Massey Hall. After his hands were badly burned in a fire, he turned to conducting, and his live orchestras utilized the new medium of radio broadcasting. Beginning with defunct stations CKNC and CKCL, Faith was a staple of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s live-music broadcasting from 1933 to 1940, when he resettled in Chicago. In 1945, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He made many recordings for Voice of America. After working briefly for Decca Records, he worked for Mitch Miller at Columbia Records, where he turned out dozens of albums and provided arrangements for many of the pop singers of the 1950s, including Tony Bennett, Doris Day and Guy Mitchell. His most famous and remembered recordings are “Delicado”, “The Song from Moulin Rouge” and “Theme from A Summer Place”, which won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1961. Faith remains the only artist to have the best selling single of the year during both the pop singer era and the rock era. The B-side of “Song from the Moulin Rouge” was “Swedish Rhapsody” by Hugo Alfvén.
Though Faith initially mined the worlds of Broadway, Hollywood and Latin music for many of his top-selling 1950s recordings, he enjoyed popularity starting in 1962 with his orchestral versions of popular rock and pop hits of the day. His Themes for Young Lovers album was a top seller during this era and introduced the Faith sound to a younger generation of listeners. With the success of Columbia record-mate Ray Conniff’s chorus and orchestra during this same time, Faith began using a chorus in several popular albums from the mid-1960s on. Faith’s first single with a female chorus, “Yellow Days,” was a substantial hit in the MOR easy listening radio format of the mid-1960s. Faith continued to enjoy airplay and consistent album sales throughout the early 1970s, and received a second Grammy award in 1969 for his album Love Theme from ‘Romeo and Juliet’.