Joe Harnell was born on August 2, 1924 in the Bronx. His musical career began with piano studies at the age of six, and his professional career started at age 14 when he played jazz piano with name bands while he continued his serious musical studies. In high school he began arranging music and studying orchestral instruments, and he received a scholarship to the University of Miami majoring in music. In 1943 Joe Harnell entered the Air Force and soon began touring with the Glenn Miller Air Force Band, serving both in the United States and in Europe. While still in the service, he studied composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, and then with William Walton in London at the Trinity College of Music. After returning to the United States and receiving his discharge from the Air Force in 1946, Mr. Harnell resumed his professional life as a pianist and arranger and began a new career as musical director for many celebrated singers including Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, Marlene Dietrich, Pearl Bailey, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Beverly Sills and Peggy Lee. Shortly thereafter he became a recording artist himself, and to date has recorded 18 albums - among them FLY ME TO THE MOON, winner of four Grammy Awards, The Yamaha Artist release MEMORY OF A DREAM is a collection of his solo piano work.

During the summers of 1949-1951, Joe Harnell continued his studies in composition with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood. For three years he held the post of musical director with Grey Advertising, and from 1967 to 1973 he was the musical director for the popular MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW. Moving to California in the early 1970's, he returned to composition, emerging as a celebrated composer of film and television music.