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June 7: The Composer of Annie and Bye Bye Birdie

June 6, 2016

strousexComposer Charles Strouse, whose many works include Bye Bye Birdie, Applause, and Annie, as well as several hit film scores, was born in New York on this date in 1928. Strouse has written scores for over thirty musicals, fourteen of them on Broadway, and has won three Tony Awards, two Emmy Awards, and two Grammy Awards for his cast recordings. He also composed the theme song for Norman Lear’s All in the Family, “Those Were the Days.” Strouse is the recipient of the ASCAP Foundation Richard Rodgers Award and the Oscar Hammerstein Award, a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the recipient of the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award in 2011, which he earned by “coming out” as an atheist in his memoir, Put on a Happy Face. Strouse entered the Eastman School of Music at age 15, then studied at Tanglewood under Aaron Copland while landing his first jobs composing for newsreels and television. He also spent time in Paris studying with Nadia Boulanger. In 1949, he met his long-time lyricist and writing partner Lee Adams. In 1958, producer Edward Padula was auditioning writing teams for a new musical about teen culture in America. Adams and Strouse won the assignment and wrote over fifty possible songs for Bye Bye Birdie within a year. To see him singing his mega-hit, “Tomorrow,” from Annie, look below.

“I never got to serve in the armed forces, but was made quite aware then that there are no atheists in foxholes, a very powerful statement to me at the time. Years later, it occurred to me that if everyone was an atheist, there mightn’t be any foxholes.” —Charles Strouse