Jerome Kern (Jan. 27, 1885 -- Nov. 11, 1945)
was born in New York City, but grew up in Newark, New Jersey. Kern's father had been a successful local merchant in New Jersey. Showing an early talent for playing piano in his teens, the young "Jerry Kern" was given the job of "song plugger" for the New York music publisher "Lyceum Publishing Co." owned by Edward B. Marks. The shrewd young composer saw how his future in music needed to be tied into not only artistic success but commercial success as well. So shortly after modest public acclaim for a couple of songs of his that were published, he decided at the tender age of 18 to buy an ownership interest in a small but growing firm called "T. B. Harms" whose legendary president Max Dreyfus was to build Harms into a show business empire.
Kern's decision was shrewd, since Harms not only helped him reap more than a composers' share of profits. And also his early success attracted other young composers to Harms, which increased the value of his investment. It was what modern corporate types would call "a win-win formula." Max Dreyfus, while running T. B. Harms, picked a number of the most promising up-and-coming composers and convinced theatrical producers to hire them for Broadway Musicals, including Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Vincent Youmans and Artnur Schwartz. So the Harms stable grew.
Kern was primarily a composer of music as opposed to a wordsmith; he collaborated with several lyric writers hired for each show during his first decade as a Broadway composer, but often that lyricist was librettist P.G. Wodehouse. Beteween 1904 and 1914 (between the age of 18 to 28) -- Kern contributed many songs to over 45 different shows. To many theatre afficianado's, these were known as Kern's "Princess Theatre musicals" because all but one during this period were mounted at that relatively small Broadway venue.
Although the songs Kern turned out during this period were somewhat charming, they weren't the timeless standards he was known for later. Only a couple of these songs were heard much in the decades to follow, namely "Under The Linden Tree" from the 1906 musical "The Little Cherub", and the instrumental "Turkey Trot" for the 1911 show "Little Miss Fix-It."
In 1914, along with several prominent composers and songwriters, Kern became a charter member of the newly-founded performance rights organization known as ASCAP -- the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Although publishers collected "mechanical royalties" from the sales of sheet music and recordings, ASCAP collected royalties from the public performance of music. At first they collected these payments from Broadway theatrical producers. Later the source of income grew as collections were made from radio and TV stations and networks.
Kern wrote a couple more memorable songs beginning in 1914 with "They Didn't Believe Me" originally written for a show advertised as "The Girl From Utah -- the Acme of Musical Comedy" which closed in 4 months. The song was re-used a year later in the show "Tonight's The Night", which ran for 406 performances, and it became a hit.
Similarly he wrote the song "You Know and I Know" for a musical titled "A Girl Of Today" which closed during its pre-Broadway tryouts; and was re-cycled for the 1915 show "Nobody Home" that ran for 130 performances.
A charming lilting song called "Till The Clouds Roll By" was also a hit from the 1917 show "Oh, Boy!". And when MGM made a biographical film was of the life of Jerome Kern in 1946 starring Van Heflin and June Allyson, the film's theme song as well as its title was "Till The Clouds Roll By."
For the next twelve years Kern's continued to be hired for a string of pleasant projects which were entertaining, but never made musical history -- until the year 1927 when (at age 42) he was hired to write the score of a show featuring an all-black cast set on the Mississippi river, called "Show Boat." This was the score in which Kern made Broadway history and became a legend in the genre. For "Show Boat", Kern had written (with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, the 2nd) four songs that became classics -- "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man", "Old Man River", "Why Do I Love You?" and the one that seemed to have the longest success -- "Make Believe".
The mature Kern was the source of several classic Broadway melodies after "Show Boat." They include "I've Told Ev'ry Little Star" and "The Song Is You" from the 1932 hit "Music In The Air"; "The Touch of Your Hand" and "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" from the 1933 musical "Roberta"; and "Lovely To Look At" written for the film version of "Roberta" made in 1935; "All The Things You Are" for a short-lived 1939 show "Very Warm For May".
Kern contributed songs to various Hollywood film musicals during the late 1930s and 1940s. Although a number were memorable hits as individual songs, he never again wrote a complete hit Broadway show. During his "Hollywood period", Kern's songs included "The Way You Look Tonight", "Pick Yourself Up" and "A Fine Romance" -- all written for the 1936 Fred Astaire film "Swing Time"; "The Folks Who Live On The Hill" for the 1937 film "High, Wide and Handsome"; and "The Last Time I Saw Paris" for the 1940 Ann Sothern vehicle "Lady, Be Good." The latter song won the1941 Academy Award. But despite winning an Oscar, the experience with the madness of Hollywood egos was not a happy one.
So Kern focused again on New York in 1945, planning to audition a Broadway revival of "Show Boat" and produce a new show with Oscar Hammerstein called "Annie Get Your Gun" based upon the life of Wild West star Annie Oakley. But on the street in November of 1945, Kern collapsed and died of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was found without identification; whether he didn't carry any ID or was the victim of a posthumous robbery is subject to debate; But without knowing his identity, his body was moved to a "derelict ward" of the hospital where it stayed until family and friends finally located him.
In the Broadway tradition of "the show must go on", "Annie Get Your Gun" went on to be produced by Kern's lyric-writing partner Oscar Hammerstein, the 2nd. Irving Berlin was hired to step in and write the music to Hammerstein's lyrics; and as most everyone knows it yielded a major hit including the song "There's No Business Like Show Business."
Kern's long career spanned three generations of Broadway Musical Theatre, and set a standard to which many composers that followed him aspired.
Recommended compositions of Jerome Kern:
Richard Rodgers (June 28, 1902 -- Dec. 30, 1979)
Recommended compositions of Richard Rodgers:
Jule Styne (December 31, 1905 -- September 21, 1994)
was born "Julius K. Stein" on New Years' Eve just before 1906 in a poor section of London, England. When he was 5 years old he began taking piano lessons. His family came to live in America when he was 8 years old and settled in Chicago. Little Jule (pronounced "Julie") made his debut as a piano prodigy with the Chicago Symphony a year later at age 9. During his teen years, an accident with a drill press led to a "desensitized finger", which led to switching from concertizing to playing popular music.
As a young man during the depression years of the late1920s and early 1930s, Jule organized and led dance bands throughout Chicago. Those years were tough, but his talent for performing and arranging accessible memorable melodies and winning friendships paid off. In 1926 he joined the Ben Pollock Band. His first published song "Sunday" was written in Chicago in that same year, and sold a half million copies of sheet music.
Coming to New York City in 1934, he first made a living as a vocal coach. Then found work writing special material for revues. After being noticed by 20th-Century Fox mogul Max Schenk, he travelled to Hollywood in 1938 to be a vocal coach for musical films, and write special material for child star Shirley Temple and a few B-picture Western cowboy singers. The latter he did during a stint at Republic Studios.
Jule changed the spelling of his last name to the unique "Styne" to avoid confusion with Dr. Julius Stein who was then head of the powerful talent agency M.C.A. (Music Corporation of America.) During the late thirties he conducted radio shows including Harry Richman's "Lux Show" and Alice Faye's 1939 musical show.
During the 1940s and 1950s Stein's collaborations with lyricists yielded the most enduring contributions to stage and screen. Jule commuted between East and West coasts to fashion some of the most memorable songs for musical films and on the Broadway stage -- with such collaborators as lyricists Frank Loesser, Sammy Cahn, Leo Robin, Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Later in his career he was also to collaborate with Bob Hilliard, Bob Merrill and Stephen Sondheim.
Although he had written published songs since 1926, it wasn't until his 1941 song with lyricist Frank Loesser, "I Don't Want To Walk Without You" became a smash hit, that his career took off. He composed music for film called "Ice Capades" (1941), and his first Broadway Show was actually an Ice Capades show ("Ice Capades of 1943", which was mounted in the Fall of 1942.) Lyricist Sol Meyers wrote the material.
In 1944, Styne teamed up with another lyricist named Sammy Cahn which began a more fruitful collaboration on both songs and musicals. For a Frank Sinatra film musical "Anchors Aweigh" (1944) they wrote the tune "I Fall in Love Too Easily." That same year they wrote "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry" and "As Long As There's Music" which were both recorded by Sinatra. In 1944 they attempted a Broadway show that closed during its Philadelphia tryout called "Glad To See You."
Then still in 1944, they wrote a song "It's Been a Long, Long Time" which became a smash hit, and their career went into high gear beginning with a couple more Hollywood Film Musicals, "Follow The Boys" (1944) and "Tonight and Every Night" (1945.)
One song they wrote in 1946 was to begin a Christmas perennial -- "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"
Returning to New York to try the Broadway Stage again the Stein-Cahn combination finally found a winning vehicle in "High Button Shoes" (1947) and they were off and running. It yielded no hit songs, but made a lifelong fan of the show's star Phil Silvers who years later asked Stein to appear in cameo roles on his "Sergeant Bilko" TV series "You'll Never Get Rich."
Two years later the Stein-Cahn partnership was red-hot when they wrote "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (1949), a Carol Channing vehicle famous for the song "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend." This musical was later made into a film starring Marilyn Monroe who adopted the song for her own signature.
Styne was a shrewd businessman who also became a producer of some of his own Broadway shows. His association with vocalists included the "Chairman of the Board", Frank Sinatra led to writing new material.
It was an impromptu recording by Sinatra on the studio lot of a new song Cahn and Styne wrote which resulted in winning the "Best Song from a Motion Picture" at the1954 Academy Awards, for "Three Coins In The Fountain." During this period they also wrote a string of songs for Frank Sinatra from "The Christmas Waltz" (1954) to "Come Dance With Me" (1959.)
In 1951 Styne also began writing musicals with the lyricist team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Their first effort was "Two On The Aisle" (1951). After writing with Bob Hilliard the show "Hazel Flagg" (1953), Styne returned to work with Comden and Green on a string of wonderful shows. They included "Bells Are Ringing" (1956), "Say, Darling" (1958), "Do Re Mi" (1960), "Subways Are For Sleeping" (1961), "Fade Out-Fade In" (1964) and "Hallelujah, Baby!" (1967.)
Styne was mostly a composer, but did provid an original story for the 1954 Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis comedy "Living It Up" with Janet Leigh and Edward Albert.
In 1959, in between writing musicals with Comden-Green, Styne somehow found the time to team up with a young Stephen Sondheim on a project to write a musical about the life of Gypsy Rose Lee, simply called "Gypsy." It starred the legendary Ethel Merman in the title role. And it produced the songs "Let Me Entertain You", "Together Wherever We Go" and "Small World."
Another young collaborator named Bob Hilliard wrote the lyrics to the musical "Funny Girl" (1964) about the life of Fanny Brice. It starred Barbra Streisand who also was featured in the film version produced four years later. "Funny Girl" was the musical that put Streisand on the map, and made a hit out of her signature song "People." It also yielded the tongue-twisting fast-tempoed "Don't Rain On My Parade."
A number of Styne's musicals were made into memorable films or were original films/TV programs with music. They included: "Follow the Boys" (1944), "Tonight and Every Night" (1945), "It Happened In Brooklyn" (1947), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), "Three Coins in the Fountain" (1954), the Mary Martin TV musical "Peter Pan" (1954), "Bells Are Ringing" (1960), "Gypsy" (1962) and the Barbra Streisand film version of "Funny Girl' (1968).
In 1968, Styne collaborated with legendary lyricist E. Y. ("Yip") Harburg on a Broadway musical called "Darling of the Day", which starred Patricia Routledge and Vincent Price. But it was only to last 32 performances. In 1970, Styne again teamed up with song-writing friend Sammy Cahn to write "Look To The Lilies" starring Shirley Booth. It had less success with only 25 performances. In 1971, another effort with Bob Hilliard called "Prettybelle" closed during a pre-Broadway tryout.
But in 1972, despite many revisions, the musical "Sugar" written with Bob Merrill lasted over a year and a half -- running some 505 performances.
And with the Comden-Green team, the 1974 effort, "Lorelei (or Gentlemen Still Prefer Blondes)" went on to a respectable 320 performances, with the promotional efforts of producer David Merrick.
Three more attempts to mount musicals during the late 1970s -1980 were short-lived, or aborted during tryouts. The final one was "One Night Stand" (1980) written with lyricist Herb Gardner.
Jule Styne passed away in 1994 at Mt. Sinai Hospital following open-heart surgery, at the age of 88.
Recommended compositions of Jule Styne:
Cy Coleman (June 14, 1929 - November 18, 2004)
was born Seymour Kaufman in The Bronx, New York. He began as a child prodigy who gave classical piano recitals at Steinway Hall, Town Hall and Carnegie Hall before he was 9 years old.
Attending the "High School of Music and Art" at the "New York College of Music" Seymour studied traditional music theory by day, and worked his way into what was known in jazz circles as "the cocktail circuit" -- playing urbane background music at society cafes and upscale parties. Somehow the name "Seymour Kaufman" got transmuted to "Cy Coleman" during these urbane gigs, and so his name evolved, along with his musical style.
His Broadway debut came in 1953, at age 24, when he contributed several songs for a review called "John Murray Anderson's Almanac." This led to collaboration on over 25 shows during the next fifty years. Some of these shows included "Wildcat," "Little Me," "Seesaw" and "Sweet Charity." His collaborators included major lyricists Dorothy Fields, Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
The show "Wildcat" was notable as Lucille Ball's singular attempt at conquering Broadway following her TV successes. But the most memorable legacy was the Coleman music for the show.
For these Broadway shows and for pop vocalists he composed several memorable tunes that achieved legendary status via multiple recorded versions -- including "If My Friends Could See Me Now," "Big Spender," "Witchcraft," "Pass Me By," "Hey, Look Me Over," "The Rhythm of Life," "The Rules of the Road," "The Best Is Yet to Come" and "For Once In My Life." The latter even enjoyed a rebirth in an early disco arrangement, as a 1968 hit for Stevie Wonder.
During the 1960's Cy Coleman wrote a couple of memorable THEMEs for two short-lived late-night TV talk/variety shows Š "Playboy's Theme" for Hugh Hefner's "Playboy's Penthouse T.V. Party", a syndicated 1960 show; and "Les's Theme", for "The Les Crane Show" which only lasted four months as part of ABC's "Nightlife" series in 1964. (This was ABC's attempt to find something in the late-night area to go up against NBC's dominant "Johnny Carson Tonight Show." Cy Coleman had been hired as the bandleader for Crane's program, and was replaced after Crane quit.)
His tasteful music often combined ideas from jazz idioms he picked up as a youthful musician, with the best traditions of Broadway songwriting he absorbed and polished as he matured. Some examples were the subtle harmonic blends he used in the TV Theme for "Playboy's Penthouse" and the jazz instrumental "Ya Turned Me On, Baby." He was also perfectly capable of creating an intricate classical fugue, as heard in the song "The Rhythm of Life" from the musical "Sweet Charity."
Later he tried composing for motion pictures, and provided scores for such films as "Father Goose" (1964), "The Art of Love" (1965), "The Heartbreak Kid" (1972), "Garbo Talks" (1984), and "Family Business" (1989.) During the early 1960s he also dabbled a bit in commercial advertising music -- for "American Airlines" and the "Ford" Motor company.
Coleman served on the board of ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) since 1966.
On the last day of his life, Coleman attended the opening a new Broadway show (for Michael Frayn's "Democracy.") At the cast party later he wasnÕt feeling well. So his wife went with him to a hospital, where he collapsed and died of a massive heart attack at age 75.
Recommended compositions of Cy Coleman:
Leonard Bernstein (August 25, 1918 - October 14, 1990)
was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts with the name "Louis Bernstein." But instead of the nickname "Lou", he preferred the name "Leonard." So when he was 16 years old he had his name officially changed to "Leonard Bernstein." "Lenny", as he was also known, grew up in the Boston area. He attended Garrison Grammar School in Roxbury, Massachusetts as well as the Boston Latin School.
At the age of 10 his family bought a piano, and he rapidly devoured music, becoming not only a talented young pianist, but absorbed music theory and composition. Leonard gave his first piano recital at the age of 16 in 1934. He even contributed articles to music journals during his late teens. He attended Harvard College as an undergraduate music major - studying with Walter Piston and other faculty members who were modern composers. He then took his graduate studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
It was at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia that he studied conducting with the famous maestro of the Chicago Symphony, Fritz Reiner. And beginning in 1940, Bernstein's summers were spent at the newly-formed Tanglewood Music Festival where he assisted Serge Koussevitsky. He soon became known to the major conductors of the day as an up-and-coming talent. In 1943, at the age of 25, he had the good fortune to be hired as Assistant Conductor to Artur Rodzinski of the ensemble known originally as "The Philharmonic Society of New York", which became "The New York Philharmonic Orchestra."
Bernstein was a charismatic young musician who worked hard and found himself at the right place at the right time when a handsome and brilliant young conductor was just what was needed to stimulate interest in concert music.
A network radio concert from Carnegie Hall in 1943 provided a lucky break for Bernstein, when he was called in to substitute for the ailing Bruno Walter. The attention from this event led to conductorships of the New York City Symphony Orchestra (1945 - 1947.) He was also taught conducting at the summer Tanglewood festival and on the faculty at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.
During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Bernstein was much in demand as a guest conductor of many orchestras including several in Europe. He was soon to become the permanent conductor of The New York Philharmonic Orchestra - a position he held continuously for eleven years, from 1958 to 1969.
As a conductor of one of the foremost orchestras in the world, Bernstein championed the music of contemporary composers including his friend Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, and French composer Francis Poulenc. He also introduced the late-romantic period symphonies of Gustav Mahler to American audiences as well as a number of avant-garde composers working in the 1960s including William Schuman, Roy Harris, Paul Bowles and Wallingford Riegger.
Bernstein not only used his podium to lead an orchestra, but to educate the public as a lecturer and author of several books which endeavored to open more minds and hearts to the wonders of concert music. His books included "The Joy of Music" (1959), "The Young People's Concerts" (1961), "The Infinite Variety of Music" (1966), "The Unanswered Question" (1976) based upon a series of televised lectures he gave at Harvard between 1972 - 1973, and his final book, "Findings" (1982.)
A marvelous quote explains Bernstein's attitude toward musical composition. He wrote, "Any great work of art...revives and readapts time and space, and the measure of its success is the extent to which it makes you an inhabitant of that world - the extent to which it invites you in and lets you breathe its strange, special air."
In 1958, the same year he was given the permanent post of conductor of The New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein began hosting of a series of televised "Young People's concerts", in which he explained and conducted excerpts from the classics. This wonderful series of weekend specials seen on the CBS network inspired countless people of many ages to take a greater interest in concert music.
As if his busy schedule of conducting, writing books and hosting television concerts weren't enough, Bernstein had the prodigious composing abilities of a Renaissance man - to create a diverse group of works for ballet, for the concert hall and the musical stage. Inspired in part by Gershwin, Bernstein integrated jazz harmonies and rhythms in his works beginnin in the mid-1940s.
His ballet "Fancy Free" (1944) was choreographed by Jerome Robbins who would later collaborate on dance for Berstein musicals. In fact, "Fancy Free" inspired Bernstein's first musical that same year, called "On The Town." Other ballets composed by Bernstein included "Facsimile" (1946) and "Dybbuk" (1974.)
His Broadway musicals included "On The Town" (1944), "Wonderful Town" (1953), "Candide" (1956) and "West Side Story" (1957) , which had been originally tentatively titled "East Side Story." The writing of "Candide" and "West Side Story" overlapped, and Bernstein admitted later that he swapped songs between the two musicals as he decided on better placement. For example, the song "One Hand, One Heart" -- originally written for the naive young lovers to sing in "Candide" -- ended up sung by Tony and Maria in "West Side Story."
Bernstein also wrote incidental music for two Broadway plays: "Peter Pan" (1950) and "The Lark" (1955.)
In 1954 he scored the Columbia Pictures production of "On The Waterfront", directed by Elia Kazan and starring Marlon Brando. This was his only motion picture commission.
Bernstein even tried writing a couple of operas: the one-act "Trouble In Tahiti" (1952), and a longer 3-act work "A Quiet Place" (1983) which was considered a sequel to the first. He also composed a number of lighter orchestral works, three full-length symphonies, plus several serious works for chorus and orchestra.
Often selections from his musicals and film score found their way into the light concert repertoire in the form of dance suites or an overture, particularly the lively Overture to the musical "Candide" which could serve equally well as either an opener or an encore selection.
Curiously, Bernstein's music found its way into television as THEME music without being commissioned for that purpose. The first use of it was the Epilogue movement of his "Age Of Anxiety" Symphony No. 2 (written from 1948-1949) used as a closing credits THEME for the cultural umbrella series "Omnibus" on CBS during its earliest years (circa 1952 - 1955.)
Talk show host Dick Cavett used Bernstein's Overture to "Candide" as the opening and closing THEME of his first (1969) show on ABC, and the opening THEME for his PBS show (1977 - 1981.) The closing THEME of the PBS show was the droll song "Glitter and Be Gay", also from "Candide." For his 1986 late-night show on ABC, Cavett again used the Overture to "Candide" played in a small jazz combo arrangement.
Several memorable melodies from Bernstein musicals "Wonderful Town", "Candide" and especially "West Side Story" became standards of the Broadway repertoire. Bernstein's romantic songs "Maria", "Somewhere" and "Tonight" plus the ebullient "New York, New York" were to join the ranks of legendary songs from the musical stage.
In October of 1990, Leonard Bernstein died of a cardiac arrest - a complication of mesothelioma from which he suffered during his final years - at his home on West 72nd Street in New York City at the age of 72. He was interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.
Recommended compositions of Leonard Bernstein:
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