Who Was Don LaFontaine? The Legendary Voice of 80s Trailers

Don LaFontaine will be a name many may not know of or recognize immediately, but they will certainly know his voice.

Before his untimely passing in 2008, Don LaFontaine’s voice resonated across a multitude of industries, from film and TV to commercials and network promotions, leaving an indelible mark on the entertainment landscape.

It’s a testament to LaFontaine’s talent that he lent his voice to nearly 5,000 film trailers and over 350,000 other promotional campaigns. His moniker, ‘The Voice’, is a testament to his influence on the industry and his role as an inspiration for many voice-over artists today.

Don LaFontaine: A Biography of The Voice

Born in Duluth, Minnesota, on August 26, 1940, Donald LeRoy LaFontaine discovered his unique voice at a young age. Despite an initial fear of speaking, he soon realized the power of his voice and its potential for good.

He started his career as a recording engineer for the United States Army Band and Chorus before he was discharged. He then moved to New York, where he worked as a sound engineer/editor at the National Recording Studios.

His first gig as a voice-over artist came when he worked with a radio producer, Floyd L. Peterson. They would work together after deeming they had a good partnership at Floyd L. Peterson, Inc – a business that started off as the two of them but quickly expanded. In 1965, he arguably got his biggest break as he was put in front of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to present something. They ended up liking what they heard, and over the next 16 years, he would go on to voice thousands of their spots and hundreds of trailers.

In 1976, he started his own production company called Don LaFontaine Associates. He had several opportunities over the years that remained of his life, helping him to become the “King of Voice-overs”.

Can you become the next Don LaFontaine?

If you’re interested in potentially following in the footsteps of Don LaFontaine, there are several ways in which this can be accomplished. Of course, there is no guarantee that any of them will work, but there’s every chance that you could become a successful voice over artist.

The first thing to do is to know how to write voice over scripts and be able to execute them perfectly. With technology today, it’s perhaps a lot easier than it was for LaFontaine back in his heyday. You can learn all about delivery and how to make something stand out, which are things he advised were more important than finding your own unique voice.

The legendary voice-over artist also suggested that singing classes could help you to improve your voice and teach you certain things. He stated that while you might not be learning to sing at a prestigious venue, classes could teach you to learn various techniques that will help you to control it, which can be beneficial. LaFontaine placed an emphasis on making sure you look after your voice, and don’t abuse it.

How can you get started and potentially have the same kind of break as LaFontaine?

Getting your big break is often all that is needed to get started, but it can be the most difficult. In today’s day and age, it can be easier to get your work out there, but it can be harder to be spotted, as there is so much more competition.

There are several websites that allow individuals to upload samples and previous work which can be spotted. However, an online presence may be required to initially get noticed.

LaFontaine recommended that a good voice-over class is taken as a starting point, while reading books written by those who worked professionally in the industry based on their experiences can be a good way to learn the ins and outs of what to expect.

LaFontaine’s lasting legacy

There may be some voice-over artists who are renowned around the world for their work and certain spots that they have done which have become famous, but it would be hard to see them ever replicate the lasting legacy that LaFontaine perhaps had on the industry.

He was the “King of Voice-overs”, after all and will have inspired many of the current generation to try their hand at following in his footsteps.

Author: Pia Sooney

Just a little obsessed with all things 80s, Pia still has her Swatch, her cassette tape collection, and her Converse Chucks. When not making friendship pins or listening to Depeche Mode, she runs a web design business.

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