Richard Rodgers

Richard Rodgers Cover

Richard Rodgers

By William G. Hyland

Yale University Press, Hardcover, 9780300071153, 376pp.

Publication Date: April 20, 1998

Description
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 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.