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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 October 2007, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
Theme tune writer Hazlehurst dies
Ronnie Hazlehurst
Hazlehurst wrote some of the BBC's best-loved theme tunes

Ronnie Hazlehurst, who wrote the theme tunes for television shows such as Blankety Blank and Last of the Summer Wine, has died aged 79.

A former musical director at the BBC, he was closely involved with the Eurovision Song Contest and conducted the UK entry on seven occasions.

He died in hospital in Guernsey after suffering a stroke last week.

Broadcaster Michael Parkinson called the Manchester-born composer "a marvellous and talented musician".

"He was also a funny north country man with a great sense of humour," he said.

"When I was at the BBC, I did a series of specials with him. He was one of the great unsung heroes on the music business - and a great professional."

Hazlehurst's partner Jean Fitzgerald said: "He was just a perfectionist in his profession and a very kind and generous man."

Morse Code

Hazlehurst was responsible for many of the BBC's best-loved theme tunes, including Yes, Minister, The Two Ronnies and Are You Being Served?

HAZLEHURST CLASSICS
Last of the Summer Wine
Hazlehurst wrote the incidental music for Last of the Summer Wine

The composer said he always tried to make the music fit the title of the programme - such as using a piccolo to spell out the title to Some Mothers Do 'Ave Em in Morse Code.

"I wouldn't prostitute a tune, to bend it every which way to fit the title," he said. "But if I can make it so, I do."

As well as writing theme tunes, Hazlehurst composed the score for programmes like Last of the Summer Wine.

"His music captured the mood immediately," the show's producer Alan JW Bell said.

"If a character was walking, all the footsteps would be in time with the music and if there was a little hand gesture, there would be a little figure that would accompany that.

"He was very precise with it. The musicians said they didn't know how he did it - it was so painstaking. Musically, he was the king."

Umbrella stunt

Hazlehurst served as musical director of the Eurovision Song Contest three times, and famously conducted the UK entry in 1977 using a rolled-up umbrella.

In 1999, he received a Gold Badge award from the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters.

The BBC's head of comedy, Jon Plowman, said: "He was the composer of many of the best-loved signature tunes of the last 40 years of television - and some of his work is still heard today.

"He's associated with some of the best-loved shows of our lives."

Fellow musician Laurie Holloway said his favourite Hazlehurst composition was the theme for political satire Yes, Minister.

"I thought it was grand and very much Ronnie," he told BBC News 24. "We're going to miss him a lot."

Ms Fitzgerald said Hazlehurst had moved to Guernsey 10 years ago from Hendon, north London, and had had a heart bypass operation in October last year.

He is survived by two sons from his second marriage.

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