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June 18 composer birthday: Richard Rodgers, the Broadway musical king

June 18 composer birthday: Richard Rodgers, the Broadway musical king featured image

The Sound of Music, courtesy Richard Rodgers 


Richard Rodgers is a legendary composer in the world of Broadway musicals, having composed over 900 songs and 43 musicals. He formed not one, but two extraordinary partnerships with lyricists – the first, Lorenz Hart, and the second, Oscar Hammerstein. Rodgers also won the most significant awards for his work: an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony, not to mention a Pulitzer Price, making him the first person to receive them all, the second being Marvin Hamlisch.

Richard Rodgers paired up with Lorenz Hart in the 1920’s and 1930’s, and the pair turned out A Connecticut Yankee, Babes in Arms, The Boys from Syracuse, Pal Joey, By Jupiter, and some film projects. The collaboration was initially a success – a lot of improvising at the piano, coming up with ideas together for tunes and lyrics – and sometimes heated screaming matches, though they came from a place of two perfectionist creative souls who cared about the art, and not meant personally. Over the years, their partnership deteriorated as Rodgers was disciplined, rose early, and wanted to get started first thing. Hart on the other hand, lived with the torment of a life in the closet, necessary by an unaccepting society, and was burdened with the resulting self-loathing and alcoholic benders. Rodgers, who had worked with Oscar Hammerstein before even working with Hart, approached him to be his new music partner, and thank goodness Oscar accepted: they went on to an extraordinary string of Broadway successes that also became films: Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music.

Here’s a clip of “So Long, Farewell”, as sung by the von Trapp children. I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, and there was some kind of night time social gathering going on, I recall feeling resentful when it was time for bed, and I wasn’t as adorable about going to bed as any of these kids.

Richard Charles Rodgers was born June 28, 1902 in New York City, and died December 30, 1979, also in New York City.

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