Franco De Gemini, who played harmonica in dozens of Spaghetti westerns and other Italian soundtracks, died today in Rome at the age of 84. De Gemini founded BEAT records in 1968 and is best remembered as the harmonica player in “Once Upon a Time in the West”.
De Gemini, known as “Harmonica Man”, was born in Ferrara in September 1928. He spent his childhood in Turin, where he learned to play in the orchestras of the city. He became interested in the harmonica in the second half of the 1940s. In 1953 he started recording for several major film scores. The first was “Bread, Love and Dreams” by Alessandro Cicognini (directed by Luigi Comencini). About 800 more scores for film and tv would follow in the next decades.
During his career as a musician De Gemini played with all the great Italian composers: Ennio Morricone, Francesco De Masi, Piero Piccioni, Nicola Piovani, Armando Trovajoli, Riz Ortolani, Piero Umiliani, Franco Micalizzi and many others. De Gemini also composed some music of his own and he published his autobiography “From beat to beat” in 2007.