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Richard Rodgers

Richard Rodgers Cover

Richard Rodgers

By William G. Hyland

Yale University Press, Hardcover, 9780300071153, 376pp.

Publication Date: December 11, 2003

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Description
Richard Rodgers, a musical genius whose Broadway career spanned six successful decades, composed more than a thousand songs for the American stage. Although he reaped wealth, success, and recognition that included two shared Pulitzer Prizes, Rodgers found happiness elusive. In this first comprehensive biography of Rodgers, William G. Hyland tells the full story of the complex man and his incomparable music.
Hyland's portrait of Rodgers (1902-79) begins with his childhood in an affluent Jewish family living in the Harlem neighborhood 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 enduring 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 twenty years with a string of hits that remain beloved favorites: 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 devastating illness at different points in his life, Rodgers' outpouring of music seemed little affected, and he continued to compose until his death at age seventy-seven. An icon of the musical theater, Rodgers left a legacy of timeless songs that audiences return to hear over and again.


About the Author
William G. Hyland is former editor of the quarterly journal Foreign Affairs and author of The Song Is Ended: Songwriters and American Music, 1900-1950.
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