James Last, the iconic bandleader known as the "King of Easy Listening" (and, more catchily, the "Emperor of Elevator Music") has died at the age of 86, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The musician had reported during 2014 that he was ill although he never specified the ailment.
Last's contributions to music rank among the most controversial catalogues in music history, and not because any aspect of his music was edgy. Some love the "easy listening wave" (such as Quentin Tarantino, who used Last's "The Lonely Shepherd" as part of the Kill Bill: Volume 1 soundtrack) and others loathed it. Either way, it was inescapable. Odds are you've heard the bandleader at some point, even if you don't realize it...standing in an elevator...on hold waiting for the operator. It wasn't glorious work but Last sold more than 100 million albums doing it.
Last was at his peak during the '70s. Billboard Magazine named him "star of the year" for 1976, and his "The Seduction"—the theme song to American Gigolo, composed by Giorgio Moroder—would become his most recognizable track during 1980.
Believe it or not, the style was wildly popular as a live act as well, and Last continued to tour until 2015, performing the last show of his "farewell tour" on April 1 in his homeland of Germany. Last has the record among performers for the most shows played at London's Royal Albert Hall, with 90.