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February 14: Frederick Loewe on Broadway

Lawrence Bush
February 14, 2017
Frederick Loewe, the composer who collaborated with Alan Jay Lerner to create Broadway musical classics such as My Fair Lady, Brigadoon, Camelot, and Gigi, died at 86 on this date in 1988. Loewe was seventeen years older than his collaborator and was a transplant from Berlin (his parents were Austrians, his father an operetta star), from where he moved to the U.S. at age 23. Not especially successful until he met Lerner in 1942, Loewe variously worked as a piano accompanist to silent movies, a boxer, a cowboy, and a gold miner. The best-known songs of Lerner and Loewe included ”I Could Have Danced All Night,” ”On the Street Where You Live,” ”I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” and ”Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” and were “marked by a contemporary conversational fluency and precision of phrase joined to a graceful Old World melodicism that looks back often wistfully to the turn-of-the-century operetta,” according to Stephen Holden in the New York Times. My Fair Lady, which opened in 1956, was “instantly and almost unanimously recognized as a masterpiece, and grossed nearly $12 million in the first two years of a Broadway run that totalled 2,717 performances.” Loewe was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972. To see Audrey Hepburn dancing all night, look below. “Frederick ‘Fritz’ Loewe was the son of Edmund Loewe, an eminent operetta tenor....The youngster played piano at 4 and, at 9, composed the tunes for a music hall sketch in which his father toured Europe. At 15, he wrote ... a popular song that sold 3,000,000 copies in Europe. He had begun his own concert career as soloist with some of Europe’s leading symphony orchestras at the age of 13.” --Kennedy Center

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.