Richard Rodgers, whose Broadway career spanned six successful decades, composed more than 1000 songs for the American stage. Although he reaped wealth, success and recognition that included two shared Pulitzer Prizes, Rodgers found happiness elusive. In this biography of Rodgers, William G. Hyland tells the full story of the complex man and his music. Hyland's portrait of Rodgers (1902-79) begins with his childhood in an affluent Jewish family living in the Harlem neighbourhood of Manhattan. During college years at Columbia University and early work on the amateur circuit and Broadway, Rodgers entered into a historic collaboration with the lyricist Lorenz Hart. The team produced a dozen popular shows and such songs as "The Lady is a Tramp". Rodgers' next partnership, with Oscar Hammerstein II, led to the creation of the musical play, a new and distinctively American art form. Beginning with "Oklahoma!" in 1943, this pair dominated Broadway for almost 20 years with a string of hits that remain favourites: "Carousel", "South Pacific", "The King and I" and "The Sound of Music". When Hammerstein died in 1960, Rodgers began a new phase in his career, writing the lyrics to his own music, then joining lyricists Stephen Sondheim, Sheldon Harnick and Martin Charnin. Despite periods of depression, excessive drinking, hypochondria and illness at different points in his life, Rodgers's outpouring of music seemed little affected and he continued to compose until his death at age 77. An icon of the musical theatre, Rodgers left a legacy of songs that audiences return to hear over and over again.
About Mr. William G. Hyland
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Published April 20, 1998
by Yale University Press.
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