David Raksin was born in 1912 in Philadelphia. His father played in the Philadelphia Orchestra and also conducted and performed in concert bands and for silent movies. David began as a pianist, and later learned woodwinds through lessons from his father. At twelve, he led his own dance band and soon was heard on the local CBS radio station. While at Central High School in Philidelphia, he taught himself orchestration. He paid for his education at the University of Pennsylvania by playing in society bands and radio orchestras. After graduation, he moved to New York City. He quickly found work playing and singing with several bands and arranging for orchestras. The great pianist, Oscar Levant, was performing in one of the orchestras that recorded Raksin's new arrangement of one of George Gershwin's songs, I Got Rhythm. Levant was so impressed, that he called his friend George Gershwin and urged him to listed to the broadcast. Gershwin got Raksin a job with the Harms/Chappell team that arranged the music of nearly every Broadway show of that time.
Raksin was then invited to Hollywood in 1935 to work with Charlie Chaplin with the music of Modern Times. He joined Edward Powell in orchestrating the scrore that he just created with Chaplin. He then worked as assistant to conductor, Leopold Stokowski, who premiered his concert piece, Montage, with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Since that time, Raksin has done a wide variety of musical projects. His many film scores include The Bad and the Beautiful, Forever Amber, Carrie, Force of Evil, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Separate Tables, Too Late Blues, The Redeemer and The Bad and The Beautiful.
He wrote themes and scores for over 300 television programs including Ben Casey and Life With Father as well as various CBS, NBC and ABC features. He also appeared on television in documentaries such as the CBC program on film music, with Aaron Copland and Sir William Walton, and acted in the pilot of the CBS series, Beacon Hill. He wrote and narrated on CBS Camera Three a program on the music of his friend and colleague, Bernard Herrmann. Raksin also worked in radio where he wrote, narrated and conducted interviews
for a three-year series of 64 hour-long programs, The Subject is Film Music.
David Raksin's adapted many of his film scores for other ensembles. These works have been performed by some of the most prestgious orchestras in the world. Raksin has also taught Composition for films since 1956 at USC, where he is now an Adjunct Professor. He has been invited as artist-in-residence or guest composer on numerous college campuses around the country.
Since beginning his career in films in 1935, he has since composed music for more than 100 films, including Laura, the theme of which has become one of the most often recorded pieces in the history of that medium, with more than 400 different versions.