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Rodgers, Richard

Richard Rodgers

Composer, songwriter

Found Partner and Friend in Hart

Almost Took Sales Job

Enter Hammerstein

Oklahoma!

Selected discography

Sources

Many observers agree that Richard Rodgers did not merely write Broadway musicalshe created the Broadway musical. Working first with Lorenz Hart and then with Oscar Hammerstein, he left two legacies: Rodgers and Hart wrote clever, witty, and sometimes cynical musical comedies; Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote serious and heartwarming musical dramas. The two pairs transformed the American musical from a light, cliche-ridden play with songs to a tightly knit, completely integrated theatrical/musical work.

Rodgerss life was focused on music and theater from a very early age. His mother, an amateur pianist, and father, a doctor with a lovely baritone voice, would sing selections together from current musicals as evening entertainment. Rodgers began picking these tunes out on the piano by ear when he was four year old. He took piano lessons long enough to learn the basics of piano technique and reading music but eventually quit because he much preferred improvising tunes over scales and exercises. Rodgers also loved to go to the theater; he would see the same show many times just to study how it worked. He was particularly impressed with the efforts of Broadway composer Jerome Kern who, with his partners Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse, was the first composer to reject the mythological and historical subjects of European operettas in favor of more intimate, realistic American settings.

Found Partner and Friend in Hart

As a teenager, Rodgers, with the encouragement of his family, began writing music in earnest. In 1916 he copyrighted his first song, The Auto Show Girl. The following year he wrote his first musical score, One Minute Please, for an Akron Club fund-raiser at the Hotel Plaza. Throughout high school he wrote songs with many partners; friends and family contributed lyricsoften of poor qualityfor his earliest songs. The composer needed a lyricist. While Rodgers was a freshman at New York Citys Columbia University, a friend introduced him to Lorenz Hart, a poet in search of a composer. They talked for hours during their first meeting at Harts home. The writer taught the composer much about the structure and purpose of lyrics. Rodgers, in turn, impressed Hart as a serious composer. They quickly became partners and friends. Their first collaboration was Columbias varsity show that year; at age 17, Rodgers was the youngest person ever to write for the show.

Hart also grew up with a great interest in theater; he saw his first play at age seven and was especially devoted to the works of Shakespeare. He never doubted that he wanted to pursue language as a profession. At Colum

For the Record

Bom Richard Charles Rodgers, June 28, 1902, in Hammels Station, NY; died December 30, 1972, in New York City; son of William (a physician) and Mamie Rodgers; married Dorothy Feiner, 1930; children: Mary, Linda. Education: Attended Columbia University, 1919-21; attended Institute of Musical Arts (now the Juilliard School), 1921-23.

Copyrighted first song, The Auto Show Girl, 1916; composed first musical score, One Minute Please, 1917. With Lorenz Hart, composed score for first amateur show, Fly With Me, 1919; composed score for first professional show, Garrick Gaieties, 1925; Broadway shows include Dearest Enemy, 1925, Peggy-Ann, 1926, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court, 1927, Babes in Arms, 1937, and Pal Joey, 1940. With Oscar Hammerstein, composed Broadway show Oklahoma!, 1943; other shows include Carousel, 1945, South Pacific, 1949, The King and I, 1951, Flower Drum Song, 1958, and The Sound of Music, 1959; shows for television include Cinderella, 1952. Author of autobiography Musical Stages, Random House, 1975.

Selected awards: Special Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 1944, for Oklahoma!; New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best musical, 1944, for Carousel; Academy Award for best song, 1945, for It Might as Well Be Spring (from State Fair); New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best musical, 1949, for South Pacific; Tony Awards for best musical, best book, and best score, 1949, for South Pacific; Pulitzer Prize in Drama, 1950, for South Pacific; New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best musical, 1951, for Pal Joey; Tony Awards for best musical and best score, 1951, for The King and I; Academy Award for best score, 1955, for Oklahoma!; Academy Award for best score, 1956, for The King and I; Tony Awards for best musical, best book, and best score, 1959, for The Sound of Music.

bia he amused himself and his classmates by writing witty verses and passing them around. During his second year there he entered the school of journalism but did not stay long. When Hart met Rodgers, he was supporting himself by translating German plays for the Schubert brothers, famous theatrical producers.

Their partnership did not catapult Rodgers and Hart to instant fame. They wrote songs for scores of amateur productions but had little luck in the professional world. Several of their songs were used in shows produced by comedian Lew Fields, but when they offered their songs to publishers, they were rejected. In 1921 Hart returned to translating for the Schubert brothers, and Rodgers entered the Institute of Musical Artslater renamed the Juilliard Schoolfor classical musical training. For two years they continued their attempts to find professional work; they landed their first job the very day Rodgers was ready to give up.

Almost Took Sales Job

At age 23 Rodgers had yet to hold a full-time job. He decided it was time to get one and settle down. A childrens clothing manufacturer offered him a sales and management-trainee position at fifty dollars a week; he told the man he would let him know the next day if he would take the position. By the next morning he had decided to take the job, but before he had a chance to let the manufacturer know, he received a phone call from his friend Ben Kaye, who wanted to hire him to write the music for a show. He agreedon the condition that Hart be hired to write the lyrics. Garrick Gaieties opened in 1925, effectively launching the partnership of Rodgers and Hart.

Rodgers and Hart also collaborated with a third partner, Herbert Fields, who wrote the books for their early shows. Together, the trio wrote shows that not only thrilled their audiences but also began to change the shape of the Broadway musical. Instead of the trite boy-meets-girl story, they sometimes chose unusual subjects, such as the historical tale that formed the basis of 1925s Dearest Enemy, set during the Revolutionary War; Freudian dream-fantasies were the subject of the following years Peggy-Ann. With that show, Rodgers and Hart began to diverge from the established structure of musical comedy, in this case abandoning the typical opening chorus number. In other shows, like 1928s Chee-Chee and Present Arms, they explored the integration of songs into the plot and added transitional music to strengthen the cohesion of the action.

In 1930 Rodgers and Hart moved to Hollywood to write songs for the film industry, but the pair did not take to Tinsel Town and returned to New York City in 1934. Their subsequent efforts further altered the musical comedy. The story of On Your Toes revolved around the world of classical ballet and was the first musical to incorporate ballet into dance sections; Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, the big hit from that show, was Rod-gerss first extensive orchestral piece. Frequently, songs in musicals were only loosely connected to the story, but Rodgers and Hart were determined that their songs center on plot situations and be completely integrated into the action. With 1937s Babes in Arms they produced a show in which every song advanced the story. Several of their best-known songs, all remarkably distinct, were written for this show, including the lyrical ballad My Funny Valentine, the sophisticated The Lady Is a Tramp, and the funny and rhythmic Johnny One Note.One of their last collaborations, Pal Joey, was also one of their best. Again, they picked an unusual subject, the seamy side of life; the main character was an unsavory fellow whose existence was filled with illicit love affairs, opportunism, and blackmail. Pal Joeys Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered is one of Rodgers and Harts most famous songs.

After their final show, By Jupiter, Hart, an alcoholic, sought rest and recuperation in Mexico. On his return he worked for a while on the revival of the earlier Rodgers and Hart hit A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court. Hart died shortly thereafter. In the 25 years of their collaboration, Rodgers and Hart wrote 27 musicals, becoming one of the most productive and prolific creative teams in the history of musical theater. Many of their songs were hits in their day but have also endured over half a century later. In addition to the aforementioned classics, Rodgers and Hart brought the world such standards as Wheres the Rainbow, Thou Swell, My Heart Stood Still, Theres a Small Hotel, I Wish I Were in Love Again, and This Cant Be Love. In 1948 Hollywood immortalized their partnership with the biographical film Words and Music.

Enter Hammerstein

When Hart left for Mexico, Rodgers sought another lyricist. He chose Oscar Hammerstein II. Hammerstein grew up in a theatrical family. Although like Hart he had a desire to write for the theater, he was forbidden by his parents to consider a theatrical career. His grandfather and namesake, an opera impresario, so soured his father, a vaudeville theater manager, on opera and theater, that his parents forced young Oscar to study law instead of theater. Although he was fascinated by literature and plays all of his life, he did enter Columbia in pre-law and then attended Columbia University Law School. He also wrote for and acted in every varsity show Columbia produced while he studied there. Shortly after his father died, during his second year of law school, Hammerstein quit his studies to work for his uncle Arthur Hammerstein, a successful Broadway producer. He spent the next few years working his way up from office boy to stage manager, learning the business of the theater.

In 1918 Hammerstein wrote his first full-length stage work, a play called The Light. It flopped, but it did encourage him to concentrate on musicals. His first such work, Always You, with music by Herbert Stothart, appeared on Broadway in 1920. Although the lyrics were good, the libretto was weak, so his uncle suggested he team up with a librettist. His next show, Tickle Me, a collaboration with Otto Harbach, Frank Mendel, and Stothart was a success. During the 1920s Hammerstein continued to collaborate with Harbach, and together they produced a string of hits, including 1923s Wildflower, with music by Vincent Youmans; 1924s Rose-Marie, with music by Rudolf Friml; and 1925s Song of the Flame, music by George Gershwin, and The Desert Song, music by Sigmund Romberg. All of these followed the European operetta formula: serious, often unrealistic stories set in far-away placesa marked contrast to the light comedies of Rodgers and Hart. With his next undertaking, 1927s Show Boat, Hammerstein and his partner Jerome Kern broke new ground in musical theater by producing what has since become recognized as the first modern American musical play: a serious story with an American locale, believable characters, and songs that fit the action of the plot. Hammerstein wrote both the lyrics and libretto for this show and many subsequent ones.

In the 1930s Hammerstein went to Hollywood. While audiences loved the film adaptations of his stage shows, the original musicals he wrote for the screen with composer Sigmund Romberg failed miserably, so he returned to New York. Offsetting Hammersteins many disappointments of the decade was his successful 1932 collaboration with Kern, Music in the Air.

Oklahoma!

In 1942, with Hart out of the picture, Richard Rodgers chose Hammerstein to help him turn Lynn Riggss play Green Grow the Lilacs into a musical. The two brought in renowned classical dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille to join the project. All three agreed from the outset to produce a fully integrated musical play in which every song and dance would have a dramatic purpose. They practically had to beg to find backers for the project. The reviews of the pre-Broadway run of the show were good but not great, and advanced sales were small. Nonetheless, Oklahoma! became the biggest hit in the history of musical theater. The songs Oh What a Beautiful Morning, Im Just a Girl Who Cant Say No, and People Will Say Were in Love, among others from the show, quickly became favorites with the public and critics. Oklahomals choreography stunned audiences; although ballet had been introduced to Broadway in earlier shows, de Milles unique mastery of the art and Rodgerss musical foundation made it standard fare.

The partnership of Rodgers and Hammerstein became official after the death of Lorenz Hart, in 1943. They continued to develop the genre, incorporating music, songs, dance, and comedy into the action of the drama, producing classic after classic of the American theater, including Carousel, in 1945, South Pacific, in 1949, The King and I, in 1951, and The Sound of Music, in 1959.

Richard Rodgers could not have selected two more different partners if he had made a concerted effort to do so. Hart, a man of excessive habits who was often professionally unreliable, wrote clever, witty, and sometimes cynical lyrics; one of Rodgers and Harts most celebrated love songs, My Funny Valentine actually extols the imperfections of the loved one. Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered is more about sex than love and is almost always watered down in modern performance. And perhaps Harts most (blackly) humorous lyrics are those of To Keep My Love Alive, a first-person how-to about a woman who maintains her ardor by killing her husbands. Oscar Hammerstein, on the other hand, kept regular habits and was a rock of professional dependability. With creative roots in the European operetta, his lyrics were romantic and heartwarming, his love songs sincere and straightforward, as in the charming waltz Ten Minutes Ago, from Cinderella. Hammersteins humor was without malice, as was evinced in The Lonely Goatherd, from the Sound of Music. Though he could be bitter if the situation called for it, his intent was always instructive, as in You Have to Be Taught to Hate, from South Pacific.

What Hart and Hammerstein had in common was a gift for capturing in rhythm and rhyme the spirit of the stories they helped create. Rodgerss brilliance was in his ability to adapt his music to the personalities of both lyricists; he not only provided the perfect foil for his partners lyrics but composed beautiful melodies that stand easily on their own. Perhaps this is the true genius of Rodgers and Hart and Rodgers and Hammerstein: The lyrics alone are poetry, and the music is memorable without the words. But the two combined, along with the innovations pioneered by Rodgers and his partners, are what forged the essence of modern musical theater.

Selected discography

Pal Joey, Capitol, 1957.

Flower Drum Song, MCA, 1961.

Me and Juliet, RCA Victor, 1964.

Pipe Dream, RCA Victor, 1965.

Cinderella, Columbia, 1965.

The Rodgers and Hart Songbook, Verve, 1977.

The King and I, MCA, 1980.

The Musical World of Richard Rodgers, Columbia, 1980.

The Rodgers and Hart Album, RCA, 1981.

On Your Toes, Polydor, 1983.

More Rodgers and Hart, RCA Red Seal, 1983.

The Rodgers and Hart CD, RCA Red Seal, 1986.

The Sounds of Music, Telarc, 1988.

South Pacific, CBS, 1988.

Babes in Arms, New Word, 1990.

Carousel, MCA, 1990.

Oklahoma!, MCA Classics, 1990.

Sources

Books

Ewen, David, Richard Rodgers, Holt, 1957.

Green, Stanley, The Rodgers and Hammerstein Story, Da Capo, 1980.

Harriman, Margaret Case, Take Them Up Tenderly, Knopf, 1944.

Hart, Lorenz, The Complete Lyrics of Lorenz Hart, Knopf, 1986.

Marx, Samuel, Rodgers & Hart: Bewitched, Bothered and Bedeviled, Putnam, 1976.

Nolan, Frederick, The Sound of Their Music: The Story of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Walker, 1978.

The Rodgers and Hart Fact Book, edited by Stanley Green, Lynn Farnol Group, 1980.

Rodgers, Richard, Musical Stages: An Autobiography, Random House, 1975.

Taylor, Deems, Some Enchanted Evenings: The Story of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Harper, 1953.

Periodicals

American Heritage, September/October 1990.

Connoisseur, July 1989.

Life, Fall 1990.

Robin Armstrong

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Rodgers, Richard

Richard Rodgers

Born: June 28, 1902
Long Island, New York
Died: December 30, 1979
New York, New York

American composer

Richard Rodgers, American composer, wrote the music for over fifty stage and film musicals and helped make the American musical a legitimate art form.

Childhood years

Richard Charles Rodgers was born near Arverne, Long Island, New York, on June 28, 1902. His father was a successful physician and his mother, a well-trained amateur musician. Rodgers heard music in his home from earliest childhood and was regularly taken to the theater. He was especially delighted by the operettas (short operas) of Victor Herbert and other popular composers. A little later he was inspired by the musicals of Jerome Kern, whose influence, Rodgers said, was "a deep and lasting one."

By the age of six Rodgers was playing the piano by ear and had begun receiving piano lessons. He attended secondary schools in New York. By the age of fourteen he had written two popular songs. Before he entered Columbia University in 1919, he had already written music for two amateur shows and had met Lorenz (Larry) Hart (18951943), a literate, amusing, somewhat driven creator of verse, with whom Rodgers would collaborate for the next twenty-four years. Their first published song was "Any Old Place with You" (1919), and hundreds followed. Rodgers left Columbia at the end of his second year to devote himself full time to musical studies at the Institute of Musical Art, where he spent another two years.

Collaboration with Hart

After working on amateur shows and on a few unsuccessful professional attempts, Rodgers and Hart won acclaim for their review Garrick Gaieties in 1925. Also in 1925, Rodgers, Hart, and Dorothy Fields (19051974) collaborated on Dearest Enemy, "an American musical play" (as they called it), contributing respectively music, lyrics, and book, adding something new to the theatrical scene. Not only was the material original, charming, and witty, but the form and subject of the entertainment were distinctly unusual. Here was a play based on American history with unpredictable and pertinent musical sections.

During the next decade Rodgers and Hart wrote three shows for the London stage and a number of Broadway musicals and Hollywood films. Though not all of them were successful, they were distinguished by a number of fine romantic ballads such as "My Heart Stood Still" (1927), "With a Song in My Heart" (1929), "Dancing on the Ceiling" (1930), and "Lover" (1932). Hart's lyrics always managed to avoid too much sentimentality, and Rodgers matched them with tunes of grace and skill.

Among the nine stage shows written between 1935 and 1942 were several of Rodgers and Hart's most famous: Jumbo (1935); On Your Toes (1936), for which the distinguished Russian-born choreographer George Balanchine (19041983) created the ballet; Slaughter on Tenth Avenue; Babes in Arms (1937); The Boys from Syracuse (1938); and Pal Joey (1940). A number of the songs written during this time are among Rodgers and Hart's most durable: "There's a Small Hotel," "Where or When," "My Funny Valentine," "This Can't Be Love," and "The Lady Is a Tramp."

Collaboration with Hammerstein

After Hart died in 1943, Rodgers entered a period of unprecedented (having never occurred before) success with lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II (18951960). Of their ten musicals, five were among the longest-running and biggest-grossing shows ever created for Broadway: Oklahoma! (1943), Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951), and The Sound of Music (1959).

The best work of Rodgers and Hart was marked by a considerable measure of wit and sophistication. In contrast, the style of the Rodgers and Hammerstein collaboration was dominated by a basic, almost folklike, simplicity. In many songs both music and words seem stripped to the barest essentials. Romantic sentiment is a major ingredient.

Through touring productions, film versions, and recordings, the Rodgers and Hammerstein shows have become known around the world. Songs that have become popular standards include "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," "People Will Say We're in Love," "If I Loved You," "You'll Never Walk Alone," "Some Enchanted Evening," "Hello, Young Lovers," and "Climb Every Mountain."

After Hammerstein's death in 1960 Rodgers for the first time served as his own lyricist for the score of No Strings (1962).

Contribution to musical theater

Rodgers's long association with the popular musical theater was an important one. His best projects were aimed at giving the musical play an ever more natural American expression. Oklahoma!, especially, brought an engaging simplicity and earthiness to the form. On many occasions Rodgers's choice of subject matter was unconventional (different from the norm), involving characters, situations, and themes of a seriousness seldom encountered previously in musical comedy. His work enriched and broadened a genre once regarded as little more than frivolous (not serious) entertainment and helped make it into an authentic American art form.

Rodgers's death on December 30, 1979, did not stop the popularity of his musical works, which enjoyed numerous revivals. Vintage original cast reissues and contemporary recordings, movies and videos, Broadway and community playhouse productions, and even illustrated books abound. They became the avenue through which the timeless works credited with launching the twentieth century musical continued to exist. Neither did Rodgers's shows lose dramatic impact. Their stories remained vividly current, such as South Pacific, which encompasses the uncertainties of its World War II (193945; when Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and France fought against Germany, Italy, and Japan) setting, and The King and I, which deals with racism and absolute authority.

Rodgers's work continues

Since music had to be hand-copied during most of Rodgers's lifetime, the musical scores from different productions did not always agree. Although there are some early recordings to follow for authenticity (similarity to the original), it still left room for changes in interpretation or even omission (leaving out) of particular numbers during performances.

The original shows were showered with honors, from an Academy Award for best song ("It Might as Well be Spring" from State Fair won this award in 1945) to another one ten years later for best score for Oklahoma! Three shows won Tony Awards for Best MusicalSouth Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951), and The Sound of Music (1959).

Later performances continued to bring fame and additional awards as top stars such as Julie Andrews (1935) and Patti LuPone (1949) recorded Rodgers's songs and acted in revivals. A revival of Oklahoma! was presented in London in 2001. It was shown on Broadway in 2002 to critical praise.

One of the biggest breakthroughs in carrying on Rodgers's work was the transfer to videotape of a superior 1954 original movie of Oklahoma! It surpassed a same-cast, second filming of poorer quality and performance that had circulated for years. It took until 1994, when equipment finally was developed to transfer the "original edition" onto video for mass distribution.

Rodgers is remembered not only for his beautiful melodies, but also for the advancements he made for the American musical theater through his work with Hart and, especially, with Hammerstein.

For More Information

Block, Geoffrey, ed. The Richard Rodgers Reader. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Green, Stanley. The Rodgers and Hammerstein Story. New York: J. Day Co., 1963. Reprint, New York: Da Capo Press, 1980.

Hyland, William G. Richard Rodgers. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.

Rodgers, Richard. Musical Stages: An Autobiography. New York: Random House, 1975.

Secrest, Meryle. Somewhere For Me: A Biography of Richard Rodgers. New York: Knopf, 2001.

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Richard Charles Rodgers

Richard Charles Rodgers

Richard Charles Rodgers (1902-1972), American composer, wrote the music for over 50 stage and film musicals and helped make the American musical a legitimate art form.

When Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, and Dorothy Fields collaborated in 1925 on Dearest Enemy, "an American musical play" (as they called it), contributing respectively music, lyrics, and book, something new was added to the theatrical scene. Not only was the material original, charming, and witty, but the form and subject of the entertainment were distinctly unusual. Here was a play based on American history with unpredictable and pertinent musical sections. Rodgers and his lyricists, Hart and, later, Oscar Hammerstein II, were to repeat this sort of innovation on several occasions. Each occasion marked an important contribution to a more original, indigenous popular musical theater in the United States.

Richard Rodgers was born near Arverne, Long Island, New York, on June 28, 1902. His father was a successful physician and his mother, a well-trained amateur musician. Rodgers heard music in his home from earliest childhood and was regularly taken to the theater. He was especially delighted by the operettas of Victor Herbert and other popular composers. A little later he was inspired by the musicals of Jerome Kern, whose influence, Rodgers said, was "a deep and lasting one."

By the age of six Rodgers was playing the piano by ear and had begun receiving piano lessons. He attended secondary schools in New York. By the age of 14 he had written two songs in the popular vein (he was never interested in purely instrumental composition). His direction seemed fixed. Before he entered Columbia University in 1919, he had already written music for two amateur shows and had met Lorenz (Larry) Hart, a literate, amusing, somewhat driven creator of verse, with whom Rodgers would collaborate for the next 24 years. Their first published song was "Any Old Place with You" (1919), and hundreds followed. Rodgers left Columbia at the end of his second year to devote full time to musical studies at the Institute of Musical Art, where he spent another two years.

Collaboration with Hart

After working on amateur shows and on a few unsuccessful professional attempts, Rodgers and Hart won acclaim for their review Garrick Gaieties in 1925. Dearest Enemy, their second success, opened the same year. During the next decade they wrote three shows for the London stage and a number of Broadway musicals and Hollywood films. Though not all of them were successful, they were distinguished by a number of fine romantic ballads such as "My Heart Stood Still" (1927), "With a Song in My Heart" (1929), "Dancing on the Ceiling" (1930), and "Lover" (1932). Hart's lyrics always managed nicely to skirt sentimentality, and Rodgers matched them with tunes of grace and skill.

Among the nine stage shows written between 1935 and 1942 were several of Rodgers and Hart's most famous: Jumbo (1935); On Your Toes (1936), for which the distinguished Russian-born choreographer George Balanchine created the ballet Slaughter on Tenth Avenue; Babes in Arms (1937); The Boys from Syracuse (1938); and Pal Joey (1940). A number of the songs written during this time are among Rodgers and Hart's most durable: "There's a Small Hotel," "Where or When," "My Funny Valentine," "This Can't Be Love," and "The Lady Is a Tramp." These are sophisticated pieces which display a firm control of the medium.

Collaboration with Hammerstein

After Hart died in 1943, Rodgers entered a period of unprecedented success with lyricist Hammerstein. Of their 10 musicals, 5 were among the longest-running and biggest-grossing shows ever created for Broadway: Oklahoma (1943), Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951), and The Sound of Music (1959).

If the best work of Rodgers and Hart was marked by a considerable measure of wit and sophistication, the style of the Rodgers and Hammerstein collaboration was dominated by a basic, almost folklike, simplicity. In many songs both music and words seem stripped to the barest essentials. Romantic sentiment is a major ingredient.

Through touring productions, film versions, and recordings, the Rodgers and Hammerstein shows have become known around the world. Songs that have become standards in the popular repertory include "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," "People Will Say We're in Love," "If I Loved You," "You'll Never Walk Alone," "Some Enchanted Evening," "Hello, Young Lovers," and "Climb Every Mountain." After Hammerstein's death in 1960 Rodgers for the first time served as his own lyricist for the score of No Strings (1962).

Rodgers's long association with the popular musical theater was an important one. His best projects were aimed at giving the musical play an ever more natural American expression. Oklahoma, especially, brought an engaging simplicity and earthiness to the form. On many occasions his choice of subject matter was unconventional, involving certain characters, situations, and themes of a seriousness seldom encountered previously in musical comedy. His work enriched and broadened a genre once regarded as little more than frivolous entertainment and helped make it into an authentic American art form.

Rodgers' death on December 30, 1972 didn't stop the popularity of his musical works, which enjoyed numerous revivals. Vintage original cast reissues and contemporary recordings, movies and videos, Broadway and community playhouse productions and even illustrated books abounded. They became the medium through which the timeless works credited with launching the 20th Century musical continued to exist.

Rodgers' shows didn't seem to lose dramatic impact. Their stories remained vividly current in South Pacific, encompassing the uncertainties of its World War II setting and The King and I, soon after, that began to deal with racism and the despotism of absolute authority.

Since music had to be hand-copied during most of Rodgers' lifetime, the musical scores from different productions did not always agree. Although there are some early recordings to follow for authenticity, it still left room for changes in interpretation or even omission of particular numbers during performances.

The original shows were lavished with honors, from an Academy Award for best song (It Might as Well be Spring, 1945 from State Fair) to another one 10 years later for best score for Oklahoma!. Three shows, South Pacific (1949); The King and I (1951); and The Sound of Music (1959) won Tony Awards for "Best Musical."

Later performances continued to bring notoriety and additional awards as top stars such as Julie Andrews and Patti LuPone starred in reissues and revivals. Rodgers himself was featured in one collection of vignettes on video in a scene of him conducting an orchestra on the fabled Ed Sullivan Show.

One of the biggest breakthroughs in perpetuating Rodgers' work was the transfer of a superior 1954 original movie of Oklahoma! to videotape. It surpassed a same-cast, second filming of inherently poorer quality and performance that had circulated for years. It took until 1994 when equipment finally was developed to transfer the "original edition" defunct Todd-AO process onto video for mass distribution.

Further Reading

David Ewen, Richard Rodgers (1957), a laudatory full-scale biography which contains lists of Rodgers's stage and film works, is quite comprehensive, although not without minor errors. Deems Taylor, Some Enchanted Evenings (1953), is a chatty, informal account of the Hammerstein collaboration and contains some musical analysis of Rodgers's songs and has numerous photographs. See also Stanley Green, The Rodgers and Hammerstein Story (1963). For additional information, see also Publisher's Weekly (July 18, 1994); Entertainment Weekly (January 20, 1995 and December 23, 1994); and Newsweek (May 15, 1995). □

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Rodgers, Richard Charles

Richard Charles Rodgers, 1902–79, American composer, b. New York City. Rodgers studied at Columbia and the Institute of Musical Art, New York City. He met both of his future collaborators, Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein 2d, while at Columbia. Rodgers wrote his first song at 14 and had his first Broadway show, a flop, produced when he was 18. Rodgers and Hart began collaborating in 1919 and had their first hit play with The Garrick Gaieties (1925) and their first hit song with "Manhattan." Frequently characterized by a brash insouciance and lively sophistication, the duo's outstanding musical comedies include The Girl Friend (1926); A Connecticut Yankee (1927; rev. 1943); On Your Toes (1936), containing the famous "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" ; Babes in Arms (1937); The Boys from Syracuse (1938); Pal Joey (1940); and By Jupiter (1942).

In 1942, Rodgers and Hammerstein began their collaboration; their first musical was the tremendously successful, Pulitzer Prize–winning Oklahoma! (1943). Generally more idealistic and often more markedly American in character than the earlier Hart collaborations, most of their nine musicals were enormously popular, e.g., Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), and The King and I (1951). Perhaps the most performed American composer, Rodgers is famous for his inventive and intensely melodic compositions. During his long career he wrote 39 musicals (30 of which became films), more than 1,000 songs, and a few symphonic works, notably the film score for Victory at Sea. From 1962 to 1969 he was head of the Music Theater of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City.

See his autobiography, Musical Stages (1975, repr. 1995); biographies by D. Ewen (1963), W. G. Hyland (1998), and M. Secrest (2001); D. Taylor, Some Enchanted Evening (1953, repr. 1972); E. Mordden, Rodgers and Hammerstein (1992); G. Block, ed., The Richard Rodgers Reader (2002).

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Rodgers, Richard (Charles)

Rodgers, Richard (Charles) (b Hammels Station, Long Is., 1902; d NY, 1979). Amer. composer. With Lorenz Hart as lyric-writer, wrote successful Broadway musicals The Girl Friend (1926), Connecticut Yankee (1927), On Your Toes (1936, incl. ballet Slaughter on Tenth Avenue), Babes in Arms (1937), The Boys from Syracuse (1938), and Pal Joey (1940). With Oscar Hammerstein II, wrote Oklahoma! (1943), Carousel (1945), Allegro (1947), South Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951), Flower Drum Song (1958), and The Sound of Music (1959). With Stephen Sondheim he wrote Do I Hear a Waltz? (1965). Many of these made into films. Wrote mus. for TV documentary Victory at Sea. Among the songs he composed are ‘There's a Small Hotel’, ‘My Funny Valentine’, ‘The Lady is a Tramp’, ‘Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered’, ‘Blue Room’, ‘O What a Beautiful Morning’, ‘Some Enchanted Evening’, ‘The Sound of Music’.

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Rodgers, Richard Charles

Rodgers, Richard Charles (1902–79) US composer of Broadway musicals. He worked first with Lorenz Hart and then with Oscar Hammerstein II on successful musicals, including Oklahoma! (1943), Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951), and The Sound of Music (1959).

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