Henri René (born Harold M. Kirchstein; December 29, 1906 – April 25, 1993), was an American musician who had an international career in the recording industry as a producer, composer, conductor and arranger. Born in New York City of a German father and a French mother, young Harold traveled to Germany with his family where he studied at the Royal Berlin Academy of Music. Returning to the U.S. in the mid-1920s, he began appearing with several orchestras. Some time after these experiences, he returned once more to Berlin, working as a composer in the German film industry, and as an arranger with a German record label.
While touring Europe with his band some years before the war, he was appointed musical director of the two largest moving picture firms in Europe, Tobis and UFA. In 1936, René came back to the U.S. and became musical director and chief arranger for RCA Victor in Germany, forming his own orchestra in 1941. As instrumentalist, Rene played the piano, saxophone, and Musette accordion.
He was responsible for the original "Beer Barrel Polka" disk, which played an important role in the development of the music machine to its present status as a powerful entertainment medium. Shortly after returning to the USA, he began recording regularly for Standard and has since become its No. 1 artist, his disks selling in quantitites comparable to those of the largest commercial dance bands. Among his most successful records have been "Cuckoo Waltz," "Waltzing on the Kalamazoo," "Tap the Barrel Dry," "Pete, the Pickelman" and "Tommy's Mustache." After service with the Allies in World War II, he resumed working for RCA Victor as a conductor and arranger.
In the middle of the 1950s, he issued several successful LPs which Allmusic has called "forerunners of the space-age pop aesthetic"; among the albums were Music for Bachelors, Music for the Weaker Sex, Compulsion to Swing and Riot in Rhythm. Rene composed music themes and scores for several popular television series. After this René worked in production for RCA Victor, with Harry Belafonte (on the 1956 LP Calypso) and Eartha Kitt among others. In 1959 he left RCA to work freelance for the rest of his active career.
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