Billy Goldenberg, composer for famous TV shows, dies

Title card for the Columbo episode Murder by the Book

Billy Goldenberg, who scored a number of key television productions in the 1970s, died this week at 84, Variety reported.

Goldenberg composed the score for the 1971 TV movie Ransom for a Dead Man, which served as the second pilot for Columbo. The composer was brought back for a few episodes when Columbo went to series.

Perhaps his most famous Columbo effort was Murder by the Book, the first regular series installment.

The episode’s director (Steven Spielberg) and writer (Steven Bochco) would both become famous over long careers. But Goldenberg more than held his own with the score, which included sound effects similar to a typewriter.

In the episode, Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) plays his usual cat-and-mouse game with half of a famous writing team (Jack Cassidy) who has killed his partner (Martin Milner), who did all the work.

As it turned out, it wasn’t the first time Goldenberg did the music for a Spielberg-directed TV show.

Goldenberg also credited for providing the scores for LA 2017 (an episode of The Name of the Game directed by Spielberg); the 1969 pilot for Night Gallery, written by Rod Serling, which had a Spielberg-directed segment; and Duel, a 1971 TV movie starring Dennis Weaver and helmed by Spielberg.

Murder by the Book made Columbo a hit. It would run until 1977 on NBC. Columbo would then be revived on ABC from 1989 to 2003.

Goldenberg also scored the 1973 TV movie The Marcus-Nelson Murders. That led to the 1973-78 series Kojak with Telly Savalas. Goldenberg also provided the theme for the show’s first four seasons.

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