Bandleader and composer, Van Alexander, who co-wrote Ella Fitzgerald’s first big hit, dies in Los Angeles at aged 100

Acclaimed bandleader and film and television composer Van Alexander passed away Sunday in Los Angeles.

He was 100.

According to Variety, the centenarian died of heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.A wonderful life: celebrating his 100th birthday on May 2, Alexander told family and friends that he never took anything for granted and had 'really been blessed' 

The Hollywood trade publication reported that Alexander co-wrote Ella Fitzgerald’s first big hit A-Tisket, A-Tasket in 1938 and they recorded it together on his 23rd birthday.

He went on to lead his own big band from 1939 to 1944 before moving to Los Angeles where he began a long career composing music for television shows and films.

He also wrote First Arrangement, what Variety describes as ‘a landmark 1946 how-to book for musicians learning how to arrange for orchestra.’

Alexander was born in New York, May 2, 1915, and began learning to play the piano when he was six.

As a teen he hung out at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom and began scoring his own compositions.

He titled his 2009 autobiography, From Harlem to Hollywood: A Life in Music.

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By Rachel McGrath | July 20, 2015

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