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December 30: Richard Rodgers

Lawrence Bush
December 30, 2016
Richard Rodgers, composer of more than 900 songs for some forty-two Broadway shows in a six-decade career, died at 77 on this date in 1979. With Lorenz Hart as lyricist, he wrote thirty Broadway scores, including for Pal Joey (1941); with Oscar Hammerstein II, he wrote thirteen shows, including Oklahoma (1943), Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951), and The Sound of Music (1959). Rodgers won all of the show biz awards — the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony — as well as a Pulitzer Prize, while writing such classic songs as “My Funny Valentine,” “Blue Moon,” “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “My Favorite Things,” and dozens of other musical theater and jazz standards. He also composed music for film and television. “Rodgers was sufficiently versatile,” writes Alden Whitman in the New York Times, “. . . to write music before the lyrics were fashioned (as he did with Mr. Hart), or oppositely (as was his way with Mr. Hammerstein). In either event, he could compose at any hour, anywhere, with or without a piano.” He was “at various times a director of the American Theater Wing, the Philharmonic Symphony Society of New York, the Juilliard School of Music, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the National Council of the Arts, the Dramatists Guild and the Actors Fund of America.” To hear the scrumptious Rickie Lee Jones performing a very original version of “My Funny Valentine,” look below. “There isn’t anything I wanted to do, that I haven’t. At the same time, there isn’t anything I’ve ever done that I didn’t want to do better.” --Richard Rodgers

​​​​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.