October 28, 1938 in Brooklyn, New York

February 16, 2024, at 12:05am, in Los Angeles, California of lung cancer at 85 years of age

Ben Lanzarone, a native of Brooklyn, New York, celebrated composer/arranger/musical director/pianist, has passed away at the age of 85 at his home in Los Angeles.

A winner of ASCAP’s “Most Performed Composer Award,” Ben enjoyed a career encompassing a broad range of musical experience. As a graduate of New York City’s famed High School of Music and Art and a double Masters Degree graduate from the Manhattan School of Music, he began as a classical pianist, traveling the country as soloist with the Longines Symphonette and making his solo debut at Carnegie Recital Hall.

Ben easily moved into the world of popular music when he started his association with Bob Crewe and Charles Fox. Their collaboration resulted in Ben’s album, “In Classic Form” which showcased his talent as both a classical and jazz pianist. Ben went on to arrange many more Bob Crewe productions, including recordings for Bobby Darin, Vikki Carr, and The Bob Crewe Generation. He soon became a busy arranger for a diverse list of recording artists including Peter Nero, Vicki Sue Robinson, the disco group The Brothers, as well as the soundtrack of the motion picture, “Grease”. He also arranged and composed many jingles while maintaining his career as a studio pianist, appearing on well over a thousand commercials, records and soundtracks. This recording activity led to his election to the NARAS Board of Governors.

It was for his work composing television scores that won Ben the prestigious ASCAP award. He wrote music for countless episodes of television, including “The Tracy Ullman Show”, “The Jay Leno Comedy Hour” and” Mr. Belvedere”. His long association with Aaron Spelling and Doug Cramer resulted in many scores for “Dynasty” (including the legendary catfight episode with Alexis and Crystal Carrington), “The Love Boat”, “Vegas”, “Matt Houston”, “The Colbys”, and “Hotel”. For Miller/Milkis/Boyett he wrote the music for numerous episodes of “Happy Days” (including the episode where Fonzie jumped the shark), “Laverne and Shirley” and “Mork and Mindy”.

As musical director/pianist, Ben toured with a wide variety of artists including Frank Sinatra, Art Garfunkel, Mary Travers, Anthony Newley, Petula Clark, Lainie Kazan and Mason Williams. On Broadway, he was musical director of the original production of “Grease”, and arranger for the Broadway productions of “Via Galactica” and “Truckload". He was also the musical director/arranger for the Off-Broadway show “How to Steal an Election” and the Los Angeles Shakespeare Festival’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

Married for forty-six years to actress and singer Ilene Graff,  they enjoyed a personal and professional relationship that spanned stage, screen, live concerts, and recordings, including a Grammy nomination for their album “Baby’s Broadway Lullabies”. Along with their daughter, Broadway vet Nikka Graff Lanzarone, they created and performed popular cabaret concerts in both New York City and Los Angeles.

As educators, Ben and Ilene taught the popular workshop “Making the Song Your Own,” inspiring singers to find the joy in music and performance. 

In addition to his numerous professional accomplishments, Ben was proud to have lent his time and talents to many charitable organizations, including The Variety Club, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and The Entertainment Community Fund. 

Ben is survived by his wife, Ilene Graff, daughter Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Daniel Smith), brothers Frank and Peter Lanzarone, brothers-in-law Richard and Todd Graff (Jhon Lafaurie), nieces and nephews, and many devoted friends. He leaves an enormous musical and personal legacy, and will be deeply missed.

A private memorial service will be held in Los Angeles. The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to The Entertainment Community Fund (formerly The Actors Fund) at