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Herman, Jerry

HERMAN, JERRY

Herman, Jerry (1933– ), U.S. theater composer/lyricist. Jerry (Gerald) Herman was born in New York City to musically inclined parents and learned to play piano at an early age. At 17 he was introduced to Frank *Loesser, who encouraged him to continue composing. Herman went to the University of Miami and after graduation he moved into musical theater. His first effort, I Feel Wonderful, a revue consisting of material he had written in college, played Off Broadway. It was the only show his mother, a teacher, was able to see. She died of cancer at 44 and Herman spent the next year seriously depressed. In an attempt to break loose from his grief, Herman produced Nightcap, which got enthusiastic reviews in a tiny jazz club and played for two years.

In 1960 Herman was approached by a producer to compose the score for a show about the founding of the State of Israel. It was called Milk and Honey and starred Molly *Picon, the star of Yiddish theater. It opened in 1961 and ran for 543 performances on Broadway. Three years later the producer David *Merrick united Herman with Carol Channing for a project that was to become one of the theater's blockbusters, Hello, Dolly! The original production ran for 2,844 performances, the longest-running musical for its time. The show swept the Tony Awards, winning ten, a record that was unbroken for 37 years.

Herman went on to compose several more shows, including the smash Mame, starring Angela Lansbury; La Cage aux Folles; Mack & Mabel; and Dear World. Many of Herman's show tunes became standards and are presented regularly on television, in film, and on stage and were recorded by many of the world's most notable singers. The title tune from Hello, Dolly! is the single most popular song ever to have originated from a Broadway musical score. It was a No. 1 hit for Louis Armstrong in 1964 when it knocked the Beatles off the charts. Another Herman composition, "If He Walked into My Life," from Mame, became a pop standard. Other well-known Herman show tunes include "Shalom," "Before the Parade Passes By," "It Only Takes a Moment," "We Need a Little Christmas," "Mame," "I Am What I Am," and "The Best of Times."

Herman had three Broadway musicals run more than 1,500 performances: Dolly, Mame, and La Cage. His songs were the subject of two popular musicals, Jerry's Girls in 1985 and Showtune in 2003. His autobiography, Showtune: A Memoir, was published in 1996.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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