Emil Richards, percussionist whose work enriched Shadowfax recordings and countless film scores, passes away at 87

Windham Hill fans will know Emil Richards from his work with Shadowfax on their early albums on the label, especially the self-titled label debut Shadowfax and the follow up Shadowdance. But Richards’ work has contributed to many of the classic film scores and albums coming out of Los Angeles for the last 50 plus years.

Shadowfax guitarist GE Stinson remembered him in a Facebook post, “Emil Richards brought a magical universe of percussion and sounds to the first album Shadowfax recorded for Windham Hill. We were blessed to have Emil play on many of our recordings. His performances were master classes in how to play in an ensemble setting adding a singular voice while serving the music.”

Richards expansive careers covers everything from the finger snaps of The Addams Family theme and xylophone on The Simpson’s intro through an expansive array of film music and, both solo and as part of The Wrecking Crew, much of the best music to come out of LA. In his obituary, The Hollywood Reporter summarizes a portion of his work “There are warm recollections of the great film composers, including Henry Mancini, Alex North, Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams, who all collaborated at finding a unique sound at Richards’ warehouse before composing. Salad bowls used in “Planet Of The Apes,” gongs lowered into fluid for space movies and many other unusual sonic effects will flash readers back to decades of favorite movies.”

Emil Richards published an autobiography Wonderful World of Percussion: My Life Behind Bars There are warm recollections of the great film composers, including Henry Mancini, Alex North, Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams, who all collaborated at finding a unique sound at Richards’ warehouse before composing. Salad bowls used in “Planet Of The Apes,” gongs lowered into fluid for space movies and many other unusual sonic effects will flash readers back to decades of favorite movies.

In her book “A Pause in the Rain,” Joy Greenberg recounts the making of the song Shadowdance, “Emil Richards had filled up the whole room at Group IV Sound with his esoteric collection of instruments from around the world, and the result was astounding. “Shadowdance” became a consistently sought tune by filmmakers, TV and radio shows for background music. After more than a decade, it is still being used by the Monterey Bay Aquarium for what I call its “dancing plankton” exhibit.

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