James Last
Legendary big band leader James Last has died.Getty

Big band leader James Last has died. He was 86.

The musician, best known for his trademark 'happy music', passed away at his home in Palm Beach, Florida, "peacefully and in the presence of his family," his manager confirmed in a statement.

The singer played his last UK date at the Royal Albert Hall in February as part of a farewell tour announced after he became ill in September 2014.

Although he did not disclose specific details of his ailment, he said he wanted fans "to have the best concerts of their lives and we will make this our happiest concert yet".

Discovering his love for music at the age of six, Last sold over 100 million albums in his career, recording 52 LPs.

His rise to fame came after forming a dance band with his brothers in 1946, later moving to Hamburg to do orchestral arrangements. He toured internationally with his band from that point onwards.

His composition Einsamer Hirte (The Lonely Shepherd) featured on the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino's 2003 film Kill Bill: Volume 1.

He was credited with making classical music palatable to the masses and nicknamed the "Emperor of Elevator Music". His signature hits included Biscaya and Games That Lovers Play.

He is survived by his second wife Christine, and his children Ronald and Caterina from his first marriage.