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Ross Bagdassarian

Ross Bagdassarian  Biography

Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. (born Rostom Sipan Bagdasarian) January 27, 1919 in Fresno, California, USA – died January 16, 1972 in Beverly Hills, California, USA of a heart attack) was an American pianist, singer, songwriter, actor and record producer. In his professional life, he was better known by the stage name David Seville, which he used on his recordings featuring Alvin and the Chipmunks.

As a young man, Bagdasarian was in the Broadway cast of The Time of Your Life, written by his famous cousin, William Saroyan. Bagdasarian’s first musical success was the song he wrote with Saroyan, “Come on-a My House”, sung by Rosemary Clooney. The lyrics are based on dialogue from Saroyan’s novel The Human Comedy. They wrote the song on the post-Broadway tour bus of The Time of Your Life.

Bagdasarian had a moderate hit in 1956 under the name Alfi & Harry with the novelty record “The Trouble With Harry”, a song with the same title as the then-recent Alfred Hitchcock comedy-thriller movie. As David Seville, Bagdasarian had another number-one record with his song, “Witch Doctor”, which was also his first experiment with speeding an audio track to get the distinctive, comical, squeaky, high-pitched voices. That success led to him to record “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” with The Chipmunks, for which he won two Grammy Awards in 1959: Best Comedy Performance and Best Recording for Children.

Bagdasarian had played minor roles in films, including Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), in which he is a piano-playing songwriter who composes, plays, and sings a song called “Lisa”. Bagdasarian’s dialogue is not clearly heard, and he appears only in long shots, but he is the only other person seen during Hitchcock’s notorious cameo appearance. Bagdasarian had bit parts also in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), Viva Zapata! (1952), Destination Gobi (1953), Stalag 17 (1953), Alaska Seas (1954), The Proud and Profane (1956), Three Violent People (1956), Hot Blood (1956), The Deep Six (1957), and The Devil’s Hairpin (1957).

After the hit records, Bagdasarian provided the voice for the David Seville character in the Chipmunks’ short-lived 1961 animated television series The Alvin Show.

The Chipmunks’ recordings, with the performers often labeled as “David Seville and the Chipmunks”, typically listed “Bagdasarian” in the authorship credit.

Bagdasarian, not yet 53, died of a heart attack in January 16, 1972, and was cremated at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles, California. His son, Ross Bagdasarian, Jr., continued to release Chipmunks recordings and took over as the voice for David Seville and the Chipmunk characters, except for those performed by Ross Jr.’s wife, Janice Karman, such as Theodore and all of The Chipettes.

3 thoughts on “Four Divine States of Mind”

  1. I am reaching out to you on behalf of Saiph Stars, a non-profit organization developed for children battling illnesses, providing them with resources such as videos, songs, games, magazines, etc. to entertain and inspire them while undergoing treatments during their long hospitalizations.
    BH, we have a wide range of performers, singers, storytellers such as Yakov Shwekey, Mordechai Shapiro, Ari Goldwag, Baruch Levine, YBC, Uri Davidi, Rabbi Ashear, Rabbi Lish, Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, Rabbi Erps, Rebbee Hill, Rabbi Pesach Krohn, and many more who have joined our project by allowing us to use their material. In addition, subscriptions such as Mishpacha, Binah, The Circle, Spotlight, JWOW have all joined our project as well BH. All the material will be uploaded to locked iPads and is streamed thru the Saiph Stars App designated to be used by these children.
    We would love to include your material as it would mean a lot to the children.
    Please check out our website for more info at http://www.saiphstars.com.
    It should be a tremendous zechus for you! Looking forward to hearing from you soon!
    Shulamit

  2. Felice Glazer says:

    I was just sitting at my piano looking over a very old book of songs called the songs we sing by Harry Cooper Smith. I got this book when I went to Anshe emet Sunday school in Chicago. That was in the late forties and fifties. This book is falling apart but I love it and will never part with it until I pass away. Something today just made me decide to look up the name of Harry Coopersmith and that’s how I found this site.

  3. Philip Joseph Brody says:

    Joseph Brody was my great grandfather. Murray Brody was my grandfather and Joseph Brody was my father. I am Philip Joseph Brody born in Queens N.Y. My halfbrother Brian is a saxophone player. Unfortunately I think musical talent skipped me. My great grandfather died before my father was born. Unfortunately my father died around 59 years old. I’m about to be 52 so hopefully I won’t pass before my time.

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