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Rice, Tim

Rice, Tim

Rice, Tim , one of the most popular stage and screen lyricists of his generation; b. Buckinghamshire, England Nov. 10, 1944. In his late teens Rice sang with a pop group called The Aardvarks, and then sang with several other groups through the mid-1960s. By 1965, he had started writing songs. That year, he also met Andrew Lloyd Webber by answering an ad Webber had placed for a “with it” lyricist. Coincidentally, both were attending the Royal Coll. of Music in London. They collaborated on the play The Likes of Us, which went unproduced.

Taking a cue from one of Lloyd Webber’s favorite children’s versions of a bible story, the duo wrote Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat in 1967. Webber and Rice put their first show on London’s West End in 1971 with Jesus Christ Superstar. For both of these shows, they raised their initial funding by creating concept albums of the works. The original album version of Jesus Christ Superstar topped the album charts for three weeks in 1970. Yvonne Elliman had a #28 hit with “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from that album. Murray Head reached #14 with “Superstar.”

The duo split temporarily while Lloyd Webber worked on his next project, a musical based on P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves books; the play flopped badly. Perhaps seeking to rekindle the old magic, Lloyd Webber returned to Rice. While Lloyd Webber had previously suggested the subject matter for their work, now Rice brought an idea to the table: the story of Argentina’s First Lady, Eva Peron. That play, Evita, became the pair’s biggest box office hit when it opened in 1978, winning two Tony Awards as well as a Grammy Award for Best Original Cast Album. It also changed the balance of power in their relationship and ultimately caused them to stop writing together.

Rice began working with other collaborators. He started a project with Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson from the band Abba. Like his earlier works, Chess was released as an album before it was staged. Murray Head took the single “One Night in Bangkok” to #3. The play opened in London in 1985, but when it opened on Broadway a year later, it did not do very well. However, 1986 saw Rice collaborating again with Lloyd Webber on an operetta about one of Rice’s favorite subjects: cricket. The piece had been commissioned for performance before Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1992, Rice started a new phase in his career. Filling the hole left by the death of lyricist Howard Ashman, he went to work in on new songs for the Disney feature Aladdin. Working with Ashman’s longtime partner Alan Menken, they came up with the Oscar- and Grammy-winning song “A Whole New World.” The album also took home a Grammy for Best Musical Album for Children. Two years later, he collaborated with Elton John on the soundtrack to the Disney film The Lion King. He received the Best Original Song Oscar for “Can You Feel Love Tonight?”

After years of rumors and aborted attempts, the film version of Evita, starring Madonna, was finally released in 1996. Rice and Lloyd Webber collaborated once again on an original song, “You Must Love Me,” for the movie. It earned yet another Best Original Song Oscar.

In 1998, Rice worked again with Elton John, creating a new musical based on the legend of Aida, which opened on Broadway early in the year 2000. Rice also shared another Grammy with John for the Best Musical Show Album for the Broadway version of The Lion King in 1999. The duo continued working together, writing the songs for the animated film The Road to El Dorado, which opened in the spring of 2000. In addition to his musical activities Rice has co- written a cricket column for the London Daily Telegraph since the 1970s. In 1999, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.


I Know Them So Well: The Best of Tim Rice (1993); Tim Rice Collection Stage and Screen Classics (1996). ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER : The Premiere Collection: The Best of Andrew Lloyd Webber (1988); The Premiere Collection Encore (1993).

—Hank Bordowitz

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