A very talented writer and actor named Lorenzo Music died recently following months of brutal, heart-breaking illness. He was
— like his distinctive, well-known speaking voice — unique. Those who cast him as a voiceover performer often said that just to
hear him, no matter what the script or ad copy, was curiously comforting and satisfying. That was absolutely true, and it was an extension of
the man himself.
He walked through life with a warming aura of creativity about him...one that enveloped all who came near. To be in his presence
was to feel smarter, wittier, more creative and, of course, happier — all by osmosis. He had so many gifts, one body could not contain
them all. They were always leaking out, enriching others.
Lorenzo was born Gerald David Music on May 2, 1937 in Brooklyn, though he grew up in Duluth, Minnesota. Much later, he attended
the University of Minnesota there and became enormously active in the school's Theatre Arts classes and community. He also became enormously
active with a lovely female drama student named Henrietta. Together, they started a comedy act that lasted eight years and a life partnership
that continued indefinitely, through four children.
In 1967, he switched from performing to writing when he joined the staff of the legendary Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on CBS
— although he managed to occasionally sneak onto camera, often with his banjo or ukulele. The show's writers won Emmys in 1969 but
Lorenzo decided that variety shows were dying out and that he'd better drum up some credits in situation comedy.
To that end, he and his partner, David Davis, accepted a low-level staff position on a new sitcom called The Mary Tyler Moore
Show. By the second season, they were story editors on what would be hailed as one of the all-time greatest television comedies and were
charged by the production company, MTM, with creating a new series for comedian Bob Newhart.
Lorenzo co-created, produced and wrote for his third "TV classic" in a row when he and Davis concocted The Bob Newhart Show,
featuring Dr. Robert Hartley and his odd style of psychiatrics. And Lorenzo and Harriet composed the show's theme song.
Their next project was to develop and produce Rhoda, a spin-off from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. It was on this
series that Lorenzo returned to performing, supplying the voice of the unseen, perpetually inebriated doorman, Carlton. Later on, an attempt to
develop a prime-time animated series called Carlton, Your Doorman was unsuccessful, though the pilot won an Emmy as the best animated special
of its season.
I first met Lorenzo when I was called in to write what would have been the second episode of Carlton's show. I found him to be a
bright, friendly gent who was brimming with ideas, not just about comedy writing but the world around him. Way too much time was wasted,
talking about things that had nothing to do with the job at hand...but it wasn't really wasted.
Time spent with Lorenzo was never wasted. He had a way of throwing an idea your way — or, perhaps, introducing you to
someone from his wide and diverse list of friends — and letting the magic, if any, evolve.
Professionally, he began to take more interest in performing. That was how the Carlton cartoon show came about, as he did
not see himself as an on-camera player, especially after a syndicated talk show he co-hosted with Henrietta was hastily terminated. While doing
the pilot for the Carlton series, he came up, almost half-heartedly, with the idea of doing a live-action sitcom set in an animation
By way of research, he toured Hanna-Barbera Studios where a casting director to ask him to audition for a role on the Pac-Man
series that was then in production. He won the part, which prompted him to put his writing-producing career aside, at least for a while, and
devote his energies to voiceover work. (The premise of a comedy set in an animation studio later emerged from the MTM studio as The Duck
Factory, written by others using none of Lorenzo's ideas.)
Soon, Lorenzo Music had one of the most-heard voices in radio and television. He would eventually be heard on several more
cartoon shows, including The Real Ghostbusters and Gummi Bears, and on hundreds of commercials and voiceover spots. His most
famous performances came, however, when he was selected as the voice of Jim Davis's well-syndicated feline superstar, Garfield the Cat.
Lorenzo was not that character's first voice. That honor belonged to Scott Beach, a San Francisco radio personality who spoke for
Garfield when the cat was first animated for a brief TV appearance. When CBS ordered up an entire Garfield special, Davis — not quite
happy with the choice that had been made — inaugurated a major casting search for the perfect, permanent sound. Hundreds of actors were
heard and re-heard before Lorenzo tried-out and Jim said, almost instantaneously, "That's the one."
Thereafter, Lorenzo spoke for Garfield on more than a dozen prime-time animated specials (one of which he co-wrote, and several of
which won Emmys) and on the Saturday morning Garfield and Friends show, which was on CBS for seven years.
As the writer (and later, co-producer and voice director) of the Saturday show, I was reunited with Lorenzo and came to truly
appreciate his acting abilities. He was a thinking performer who would instantly grasp what had been written and, as often as not, come up with
a way to maximize the humor. His suggestions were nearly always good, and contributed to making Garfield a truly memorable animated
During this period, Lorenzo came up with the gimmick of keeping his visage from public view...a notion that flowed from all the
curiosity he'd aroused when playing the never-seen Carlton on Rhoda. Thereafter, his publicity photos showed him in silhouette, or with
something in front of his face, and he declined all TV interviews that would not present him that way.
Although he had appeared occasionally on TV before, the stunt had its intended effect of arousing attention. People began
wondering about the face that went with the voice and he often chuckled that he was becoming "semi-famous" for not being seen.
He received several lucrative proposals to appear on-camera in movies and TV shows or as a commercial spokesperson and was forever
considering them but always opting to wait for a better offer. (He once likened it to a great dramatic actor waiting for the right role before
he'd perform without his hairpiece. He'd say, "I'm not showing my face for this one.")
Lorenzo was an enormously versatile, brilliant man with interests in a hundred different directions and talents he never had time to
fully flex. He wrote music and poetry, he produced short stories for his own and his friends' enjoyment, and he even participated in a dance
For a time, he donated one night per week to taking calls on a suicide hot line. The callers never knew his identity but
occasionally, one of them would be pouring out a story — "my wife left me, I'm broke, I have an incurable disease," etc. — and would
suddenly blurt out, "Hey, you know you sound like that cat on TV?"
A few months ago, Lorenzo began having health problems. Initially misdiagnosed, they soon turned out to all be related to cancer
that had infiltrated his system and spread across his spine and into various nooks of his body. A lot of us knew the end was near when he told
us his spine was "riddled with cancer." Any time you hear the word, "riddled," it ain't good.
The disease had been, for a time, undetected...up until a visit he paid to a health spa. While being lifted on a massage table by
a masseuse, Lorenzo's back broke and doctors subsequently spotted the deterioration. Additional problems quickly followed — a rather
horrifying list of them.
Still, when I visited him in the hospital, he initially sounded as strong and determined as if he were in for a simple
tonsillectomy. The facts of his case suggested he hadn't long to live but, until about a week ago, his spirit and resolve suggested
otherwise. Sadly, the facts won out.
It's customary to end these things by writing something like, "Fortunately, he will be with us forever...in reruns of The Mary Tyler
Moore Show, Rhoda, The Bob Newhart Show and other programs he wrote, and reruns of Rhoda, Garfield, The Real Ghostbusters, The Gummi Bears
and other shows on which he performed. He also leaves behind a terrific family, a legacy of friends who were introduced to one another and
inspired by his kindness, and a whole lot of fans."
And of course, all that is true. But to those of you who never had the chance to know him, I have to say...
I'm sorry. The work was wonderful, and I know you'll enjoy watching it again and again and again. But being around Lorenzo
Music was even better.
IN MEMORY OF LORENZO MUSIC
His family has requested that anyone wishing to
make a donation in his name do so to:
The Subud International Cultural Association
5828 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036