Julie Andrew's Collaborator, Conductor and Friend, Ian Fraser, Dies at 81

Pam WrightLife

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Julie Andrews lost a good friend and musical collaborator over weekend.

Emmy award-winning composer and longtime conductor Ian Frazer died "very peacefully" of cancer at his Los Angeles home Friday. He was 81.

"Ian was my beloved friend, trusted conductor, arranger, pianist and all-around musical genius," Andrews said in a statement Friday. "I will miss him very much, indeed.

"As a mentor, he encouraged me to try things that enhanced my knowledge of music and my singing abilities."

Fraser's daughter Tiffany confirmed the news to the Los Angeles Times, noting that Andrews was on the phone with several of Fraser's relatives shortly before he died.

“He was just an amazing person surrounded by family," Tiffany said.

Born Aug. 23, 1933, in Hove, England, he was best known for his work on several albums for Andrews and on her 1970s variety show. He also served as musical director for the award show three times, winning 11 Emmys for his television work.

He will also be remembered for his famed Bing Crosby/David Bowie holiday mashup, Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.

The unlikely Crosby/Bowie duet was performed on the 1977 Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas program, a classic that would become even more poignant because it would be Crosby's last performance before he died.

The plan was to have Crosby and the British rocker sing Little Drummer Boy, but Bowie objected.

“David walked in and said, ‘God, I hate that song. Isn’t there something else I could do?’” Fraser said in a 2010 interview on the ABC News show Nightline.

So Fraser stepped in and came up with the mashup.

When he died on Friday, Fraser was on his 10th term as governor of the Television Academy of Music.

"Ian will be remembered by all who had the great fortune to know and work with him as a man of great taste and talent, intelligence and warmth, and a wonderful sense of humor and fun," said Bruce Rosenblum, chairman and CEO of the Television Academy of Music, in a statement.

His survivors include his wife, Judee; children and grandchildren.

Pam Wright