Richard Adler, Broadway Composer And Lyricist, Dies | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Richard Adler, Broadway Composer And Lyricist, Dies

Play associated audio

One half of a great American songwriting team has died. Richard Adler died in Southampton, N.Y, yesterday at the age of 90. Adler and his songwriting partner, Jerry Ross, were composers and lyricists who got their start with a No. 1 hit in 1953, "Rags to Riches," sung by Tony Bennett.

From a single that sold over a million copies, Adler and Ross went on to write one of Broadway's best-loved musicals. Adler told WHYY's Fresh Air in 1990 that when they were working on The Pajama Game, he got the idea for one of its biggest songs in an unorthodox way.

"I went to the bathroom one day, and when I got in there I decided, 'I'm not leaving till I've written a song,' " he said. "Then all of a sudden the radiator started clanging and hissing, and I got the idea for steam heat."

The two next took on a musical about baseball, a sport Adler did not even enjoy. The result? Damn Yankees. Just a few months after it opened in 1955, Jerry Ross died unexpectedly. He was only 29.

Adler says he was devastated. But he rallied, wrote commercial jingles, and in 1962 was hired to plan the most famous presidential birthday party ever. President John F. Kennedy told Adler that hiring Marilyn Monroe was a great idea.

But Adler will always be best remembered for the handful of great musicals he wrote with Ross and songs like "Whatever Lola Wants," "Hernando's Hideaway" and "Hey There," about yearning for someone who seems unattainable

The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees are revived regularly on Broadway and all over the world. It's almost like they'll live forever.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Director: 'The Interview' Is A Case Of Accidental Irony

Sony's movie, The Interview, was meant to be just a silly comedy, but now it's a symbol of free speech. NPR's Linda Wertheimer talks to its screenwriter, Dan Sterling.
NPR

Nutmeg Spice Has A Secret Story That Isn't So Nice

Nutmeg is a feel-good holiday spice. But it once caused serious bloodshed and may have even been a reason the Dutch were willing to part with Manhattan in the 1600s.
NPR

To Deal With Hostile Congress, Obama Can Look To History

President Obama will face opposition in 2015 in both the House and Senate. NPR's Linda Wertheimer talks to historian Michael Beschloss about how Obama will or will not work with the 114th Congress.
NPR

Facebook Finds That Not All Users Want To Review Their Year

The social media giant's "Year in Review" app has upset some who prefer to forget 2014's unpleasant memories.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.