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Mitch Leigh

Composer.

Born: January 3, 1928; Died: March 16, 2014

Mitch Leigh, who has died aged 86, was a composer who wrote The Impossible Dream, the soaring, positive anthem recorded by Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams and many others and, after My Way, probably the most popular choice of every bar singer around the world.

The song was composed for Man of La Mancha, the musical inspired by the story of Don Quixote that was also a hit around the world.

It was also made into a much less successful film starring Peter O'Toole in the title role.

Leigh was born Irwin Michnick in Brooklyn, the son of a furrier from Ukraine. He played the bassoon as a young man and studied music at the High School of Music and Art in New York.

After a spell in the Army, he began working in advertising and discovered he was good at writing jingles. Over the new few years, he would write music for dog food, cakes, cigarettes and many other products and continued to work in advertising long after he had found great success with Man of La Mancha.

He wrote the score for the musical - the book was by Dale Wesseman - in the mid-1960s and the original production ran for 2328 performances from 1965 until 1971.

It won five Tony awards including best composer and lyricist for Leigh and Joe Darion.

The year after it closed, it was made into a film starring O'Toole and Sophia Loren but it was much less well received by the critics. Around the world though it proved a hit as a touring production - Keith Michell played the lead in the first British production in 1968 and Jacques Brel played the lead in France; it was also revived on Broadway four times.

The show's most popular song also enjoyed widespread success. The Quest, popularly known as The Impossible Dream, hit number one on the Billboard charts in 1966. "To dream the impossible dream," it said, "To fight the unbeatable foe/To bear with unbearable sorrow/To run where the brave dare not go."

Sadly, Leigh was never able to repeat the massive success of Man of La Mancha and never had another hit.

He wrote several more Broadway shows, including Cry for Us All in 1970, Home Sweet Homer in 1976 and Sarava in 1979, but they all closed after a few weeks. He did find more success, though, with a Broadway revival of Mame starring Angela Lansbury and a revival of The King and I starring Yul Brynner in 1985.

He is survived by his wife Abby, two children and a son from his first marriage.

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