Dec. 30, 1979 New York New York County (Manhattan) New York, USA
Composer. He is best remembered for his songwriting partnerships with the lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II and his compositions have had a significant impact on popular music. Born into a prosperous Jewish family, his father was a physician who changed his surname from Abrahams to Rodgers. At age six he started playing the piano and was composing songs in his early teenage years After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City, New York, he attended Columbia University there and later shifted his studies to the Institute of Musical Art (now The Julliard School). In 1919 he met Lorenz Hart and they struggled for years in the field of musical comedy, writing several amateur shows. They made their professional debut with the song "Any Old Place With You", featured in the 1919 Broadway musical comedy "A Lonely Romeo." Their first professional production was the 1920 "Poor Little Ritz Girl" and their next professional show, "The Melody Man," did not premiere until 1924. In 1925, while working as a musical director for Lew Fields, he and Hart wrote songs for a benefit show presented by the prestigious Theatre Guild, called "The Garrick Gaieties," and the critics found the show fresh and delightful. Only meant to run one day, the Guild knew they had a success and allowed it to re-open later. The show's biggest hit, the song that Rodgers believed "made" Rodgers and Hart, was "Manhattan" and they became a Broadway songwriting force. Throughout the rest of the decade, the duo wrote several hit shows for both Broadway and London, including "Dearest Enemy" (1925), "The Girl Friend" (1926), "Peggy-Ann" (1926), "A Connecticut Yankee" (1927), and "Present Arms, producing tunes such as "Here in My Arms", "Mountain Greenery", "Blue Room," "My Heart Stood Still" and "You Took Advantage of Me." In the early 1930s they moved to Hollywood, California, and wrote some classic songs and film scores, including "Love Me Tonight" (1932), which introduced the tunes "Lover," "Mimi," and "Isn't It Romantic?". He also wrote a melody for which Hart wrote three consecutive lyrics which either were cut, not recorded or not a hit. The fourth lyric resulted in one of their most famous songs, "Blue Moon." Other film work includes the scores to "The Phantom President" (1932, starring George M. Cohan), "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum" (1933, starring Al Jolson), and "Mississippi" (1935, starring Bing Crosby and W.C. Fields). In 1935 they returned to Broadway and wrote an almost unbroken string of hit shows that ended only with Hart's death in 1943, most notably are "Jumbo" (1935), "On Your Toes" (1936, which included the ballet "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue"), "Babes in Arms" (1937), "I Married an Angel" (1938), "The Boys from Syracuse" (1938), "Pal Joey" (1940), and "By Jupiter" (1942). Many of the songs from these shows are still sung today, including "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," "My Romance," "Little Girl Blue," "I'll Tell the Man in the Street," "There's a Small Hotel," "Where or When," "My Funny Valentine," "The Lady Is a Tramp," "Falling in Love with Love," "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," and "Wait till You See Her." Prior to Hart's death, he began working with Oscar Hammerstein II, because of Hart's unreliability and declining health. Their first musical, the groundbreaking hit, "Oklahoma!" (1943), marked the beginning of the most successful partnership in American musical theatre history. He and Hammerstein went on to create four more hits that are among the most popular of all musicals and were each made into successful films, "Carousel" (1945), "South Pacific" (1949, winner of the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama), "The King and I" (1951), and "The Sound of Music" (1959). Other shows include the minor hit "Flower Drum Song" (1958), as well as not so successful "Allegro" (1947), "Me and Juliet" (1953) and "Pipe Dream" (1955). They also wrote the score to the film "State Fair" (1945, which was remade in 1962 with Pat Boone), and a special TV musical of "Cinderella" (1957). Their collaboration produced many well-known songs, including "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'." "People Will Say We're in Love," "Oklahoma!" (which also became the state Oklahoma's state song), "If I Loved You," "You'll Never Walk Alone," "It Might as Well Be Spring," "Some Enchanted Evening," "Getting to Know You," "My Favorite Things," "The Sound of Music," "Sixteen Going on Seventeen," "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," "Do-Re-Mi," and "Edelweiss," Hammerstein's last song. Much of his work with both Hart and Hammerstein was orchestrated by Robert Russell Bennett. He composed twelve themes, which Bennett used in preparing the orchestra score for the 26-episode World War II NBC television documentary "Victory at Sea" (1952 to 1953), which pioneered the "compilation documentary," programming based on pre-existing footage, and was eventually broadcast in dozens of countries. In 1962 he won an Emmy Award for the music of the ABC documentary" Winston Churchill: The Valiant Years" (1960 to 1961). After Hammerstein's death in 1960, he wrote both words and music for his first new Broadway project "No Strings" (1962, which earned two Tony Awards). The show was a minor hit and featured perhaps his last great song, "The Sweetest Sounds." He composed the theme music, "March of the Clowns", for the ABC television drama series "The Greatest Show on Earth," which aired from September 1962 until April 1964, and also contributed the main-title theme for the CBS historical anthology television series "The Great Adventure" that aired from September 1963 until May 1964. He went on to work in Broadway musicals with lyricists Stephen Sondheim in "Do I Hear a Waltz?" (1965), Martin Charnin in "Two by Two" (1970) and "I Remember Mama" (1979), and Sheldon Harnick in "Rex" (1976). He died in 1979 at the age of 77. In 1950 he and Hammerstein received The Hundred Year Association of New York's Gold Medal Award in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York. In 1978 he received the Barnard Medal of Distinction at the Barnard College commencement ceremonies. In 1990 the 46th Street Theatre was renamed "The Richard Rodgers Theatre" in his memory. In 1999, Rodgers and Hart were each commemorated on US postage stamps. He and Hammerstein earned a total of 35 Tony Awards, 15 Academy Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, two Grammy Awards, and two Emmy Awards during their musical collaboration, and was the first person to win what are considered the top show business awards in television, recording, movies and Broadway: an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony, now known collectively as an EGOT. He was the father of Mary Rodgers, the composer of the Broadway musical comedy "Once Upon a Mattress," and an author of children's books. (bio by: William Bjornstad)
Burial: Cremated, Ashes scattered.
Maintained by: Find A Grave Record added: Jan 01, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 891