composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer from Passaic, New Jersey, who
began his musical adventure on the violin when he was only in the third
grade. While still in school, he
learned bass, clarinet, and sax.
Eventually he gravitated to the keyboards and settled on them. As a teenager, he performed at bar
mitzvahs and weddings. He also
took part in various school bands throughout junior high school and
university he attended was the University of Miami, from whence he
graduated with a B.A. He went
on to acquire a degree in composition at the Mannes College of Music. Not content to end his formal
education there, he matriculated to the Julliard School of Music and the
Manhattan School of Music, studying arranging, composition, conducting, and
orchestration. He spent some
time in the army and it was here that he began writing songs.
In 1968, he
co-founded Ten Wheel Drive with Aram Schefrin. They added singer Genya Ravan to their ranks
plus seven others to round out the ten. Their personnel was
a revolving door of musicians, but the aforementioned threesome comprised
the core of the group. Michael
wrote the music, Aram wrote lyrics, and the two of them co-arranged, with Genya pitching in the odd song and taking care of lead
vocals. They released their
debut LP, Construction #1, in
1969. This was followed up by Brief Replies and Peculiar Friends, released in 1970
and 1971, respectively. After Polydor refused to let them record their rock opera, Little Big Horn, Genya
became disillusioned and quit the band. The trio reunited in 1972 to work on
Genya’s solo debut, with Aram and Michael
handling production duties. Ten
Wheel Drive released an eponymous album on Capitol Records in 1974, but
Aram decided to leave the band and become a lawyer.
into film and television, composing music for commercials, movies, and TV
shows. He had some top-shelf
clients including Budweiser, Buick, Burger King, IBM, Kodak, Maxwell House
Coffee, MCI, and Volvo. Neither
was his in-studio talent of the garden variety: He persuaded acts such as The Chi-Lites, Kool & The Gang
and The Spinners to come in and sing the voice tracks. Raquel Welch even did one of his ads
for Crystal Light. In 1975, he
got a taste of chart success with “Life and Death in G&A”
on the Roulette label, with Love Childs Afro-Cuban Blues Band.
up with Jerry Love, ex-A&R man at A&M, to form Love-Zager Productions.
Under this umbrella, they issued a single entitled “Do it with
Feeling”, which was alternately credited to Michael Zager & The Moon Band and Michael Zager’s Moon Band. A singer by the name of Peabo Bryson had been smart enough to place himself
inside the studio and was plucked to sing lead vocals. The song went to #3 on the disco
chart and #15 on Club Play.
Simplifying their name to The Michael Zager
Band, which was essentially a group of session musicians, the bandmaster
released his magnum opus in 1977, a song called “Let’s All
Chant”. It topped the
charts in the States and the U.K. as well as other countries around the
world. An album of the same
name was released in 1978.
meantime, Love Childs Afro-Cuban Blues Band was catching fire and reached
#13 on the disco chart with the title track from SpanDisco. They dropped Love Childs from their
name and scored a hit with another title track, “Rhythm of
Life”, this time on the Arista. The band followed this up with
another chart-climber, “Have a Real Good Time”, in 1979. In spite of these successes, Arista wasted little time promoting them, and Michael
decided to pick up his toys and go home.
With one less
band to worry about, he focused his attention on The Michael Zager Band and their next enterprise, Life’s a Party. The album features a 14-year-old Whitney Houston singing vocals on
“You Don’t Know a Good Thing”.
arranged, conducted, co-wrote and produced the music on The Spinners album,
Dancin’ and Lovin’. The tracks include “Disco
Ride”, penned by Michael and Jolyon Skinner
and Eltesa Weathersby,
and “Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me Girl”, the second
song of which was penned by Michael alone. The combination would work again in
on “Cupid/I’ve Loved You for a Long Time”, with Michael
again writing the back half of the medley.
In 1980, The
Michael Zager Band issued the simply titled Zager,
featuring guest vocalists Luther Vandross and Deniece Williams, who lent her vocals to “Time
Heals Every Wound”. Time
had run out on the disco era, however, and the days of disco-themed hits
were finite. Ironically,
Michael’s music is included in the motion picture, The Last Days of Disco.
re-emerged with another band, Moving Images, who recorded the smooth-jazz
CD, South Beach Wind.
also been active in the realm of music education. His publications include Music Production and Writing Music for Television and Radio
Commercials (A Manual for Composers and Students). In addition to teaching at his
former school, Mannes College of Music, he is a music professor at Boca
Raton’s Florida Atlantic University, where he also boasts the
prestigious title, Dorothy F. Schmidt Eminent Scholar in Performing
The Spinners recordings
Disco Ride (Jolyon
Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me
Girl (Sandy Linzer/Denny