The Day Lorenzo Music Died
Five years ago today, a man named Lorenzo Music died. He was 64 years old. I never met Mr. Music, but six months before his death I wrote him a letter. I’ll get to that in a minute. First, you need to know who this man was.
In the 1970s, Mr. Music was a writer and producer on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, and The Bob Newhart Show. He wrote the theme song for The Bob Newhart Show, but most people at the time came to know him as the voice of Rhoda’s never-seen doorman Carlton on Rhoda.
In 1982, Lorenzo Music was cast as the voice of Garfield the cat. That’s when I came to know his work. His soothing and mellow voice was just right for that fat cat, which I confess I found funny in 1982.
As I grew up, Mr. Music’s voice seemed to follow me. I was a big fan of the movie Ghostbusters, and watched The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series a few years later. I immediately recognized Mr. Music’s voice as Peter Venkman, the character played by Bill Murray in the movie. When Mr. Music was replaced by Dave Coulier (of “Full House” fame) in later seasons, the character just wasn’t the same. Dave Coulier was a poor replacement for Lorenzo Music. Many people also recognized his voice on the Gummi Bears cartoon, where he played Tummi Gummi. By then I was already a fan of his, but I admit I couldn’t stand this show.
As the years passed, I kept hearing Lorenzo Music’s voice. He did several TV commercials, playing one of the Crash Test Dummies for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. He did radio commercials for Pizza Hut and Chick-Fil-A. As I grew out of Saturday Morning Cartoons, his voice followed me through high school and college, at the most unexpected times. Hanging out with friends, listening to the radio, I’d randomly hear Lorenzo Music during commercial breaks. His voice was so soothing and familiar. He was one ever-present constant in the background of a life full of so many variables.
Early in 2001, I realized that I hadn’t been hearing his voice as much. Was he still working? I looked him up on-line and found a mailing address through his agent. I decided I would write him a letter. I don’t really write fan mail, but I figured that most voiceover actors probably don’t get that much, and he should know that he still has fans. So I sent him a letter, thanking him for being a talented and soothing voice in so much of my life as I grew up.
I can only assume he received it, as I never heard back. Around six months later, I heard that he died after months of illness. It’s strange being sad for the death of someone I never met; but he was so present in the background of my life until then, and it was sad to know he wouldn’t be there anymore.
In 2004, Garfield was released as a major motion picture. When I first heard about it, I thought, “How could they do a Garfield movie without Lorenzo Music to lend his voice?” I was afraid they would cast Dave Coulier, which would be an ultimate insult. Instead, I was pleased to see that Bill Murray, whose Ghostbusters character was later voiced by Lorenzo Music in the animated Ghostbusters series, was cast as the voice of Garfield. Whether or not the producers intended it as such, I found that to be a fitting tribute.
Previously: The Google Maps Guide to Ghostbusters
Even more previously: I hid a little tribute to Lorenzo Music in my 2002 website about the best saturday morning cartoon series that never was, The Adventures of Li’l Bill & Hill.
And a question: In 1980, one episode of a proposed animated series Carlton Your Doorman was produced, based on Lorenzo Music’s character from Rhoda. While it didn’t get picked up as a series, it did air as a special on CBS and earned an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program. Does anybody have a copy or know where I can get one? I’d love to see it. Please e-mail me if you know how I can get it. Thanks.