Richard Rodgers

For work done with Oscar Hammerstein II, see Rodgers and Hammerstein
For the British architect, see Richard Rogers

Richard Rodgers (June 18, 1902 - December 30, 1979) was one of the great composers of musical theater, best known for his song writing partnerships with Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II. He received countless awards including Pulitzers, Tonys, Oscars, Grammys and Emmys. He wrote more than 900 published songs, and forty Broadway musicals. Many of his compositions continue to have a broad appeal and have made a significant impact on the development of popular music. Here are a few examples: In 1960, the gentle waltz "My Favourite Things" from The Sound of Music was adopted and transformed into a seminal jazz performance by the saxophonist John Coltrane (Coltrane would frequently play the tune until his death). "Blue Moon", a song written with lyricist Lorenz Hart, has become a pop standard. "You'll never walk alone", originally from Carousel, is the anthem of Liverpool FC and has become almost synonymous with that football club. "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'" from the musical Oklahoma! is sometimes mistaken for an authentic folk song.

Born in New York City, to a prosperous Jewish family, Rodgers attended the same public school as Bennett Cerf, and studied at Columbia University where he met the lyricist, Lorenz Hart. In the 1920s and 1930s, Rodgers and Hart produced numerous successful musical comedies, including: The Garrick Gaieties (1925-26), Dearest Enemy (1925), A Connecticut Yankee (1927), On Your Toes (1936), Babes in Arms (1937), I'd Rather Be Right (1937), I Married an Angel (1938), The Boys From Syracuse (1938), Too Many Girls (1939), Higher and Higher (1940), and Pal Joey (1940). Their partnership came to an end with the death of Lorenz Hart in 1943.

Rodgers, who had anticipated the end of the partnership, then began working with Oscar Hammerstein II, already a successful lyricist who had worked with Jerome Kern and others. Their first musical, Oklahoma! (1943), was ground-breaking, and marked the beginning of the most successful partnership in Broadway musical history. This was followed by Carousel (1945), Allegro (1947), South Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951), Me and Juliet (1953), Pipe Dream (1955), Flower Drum Song (1958) and The Sound of Music (1959). The Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals earned a total of 34 Tony Awards, 15 Academy Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, two Grammy Awards and 2 Emmy Awards. During this period, Rodgers also had one major solo project, writing the score to the NBC TV documentary series Victory at Sea.

After Hammerstein's death in 1960, Rodgers continued to write music for Broadway. His solo career includes the music for No Strings (1962), Do I Hear a Waltz? (1965), Two By Two (1970), Rex (1976) and I Remember Mama (1979). For the film version of The Sound of Music, he solo-wrote two songs ("I Have Confidence" and "Something Good") that had not appeared in the stage show.

Richard Rodgers died at his home in New York City at the age of 77. In 1990 he was honored posthumously when the 46th Street Theatre was renamed The Richard Rodgers Theatre.

Rodgers was an abrasive personality and not universally popular. Stephen Sondheim, who provided the lyrics for Do I Hear a Waltz?, later recalled it as an unhappy working relationship. Sondheim—who also knew Oscar Hammerstein extremely well—said that whereas Hammerstein was "a man of limited ability and infinite soul" Rodgers was a "a man of infinite ability and limited soul".

Rodgers' daughter, Mary, became a musical theater composer and an author of children's books: her son (Richard Rodgers' grandson), Adam Guettel, is a musical theater composer.


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