Award-winning composer and lyricist Richard Adler, most remembered for co-writing the music to the hit musicals “The Pajama Game” and “Damn Yankees,” died Thursday at his home in Southampton, NY. He was 90.
Born in New York City in 1921, Adler graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1943, and served in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II.
After serving in the Navy, Adler teamed up with Jerry Ross and the two began writing lyrics and composing music immediately — their first big hit being the song Rags to Riches, which was recorded by Tony Bennett and reached number 1 on the charts in late 1953.
The Hollywood Reporter writes that as Rags to Riches was topping the music charts, Adler and Ross dove headfirst into Broadway production, writing music and lyrics for two of the biggest midcentury musical smashes: The Pajama Game, which opened in 1954, and Damn Yankees the following year.
Both shows, which were later adapted to the big-screen, played more than 1,000 performances and won consecutive Tony Awards for best musical.
Tragically, the fruitful Ross-Adler collaboration ended when Ross died of a lung ailment in 1955 at age 29.
Following Ross’ death, Adler continued to write both alone and with other partners and was nominated for another Tony for Kwamina in 1962. His last Broadway musical came in 1976 with Music Is, an adaptation of Twelfth Night.
Beyond his Broadway excellence, Richard Adler is famous for staging and producing numerous White House-oriented entertainments, including the famous birthday celebration for President Kennedy featuring a breathy, seductive performance of “Happy Birthday” by Marilyn Monroe.
He also composed several symphonic works, including “The Lady Remembers,” commissioned by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation celebrating the statue’s centennial.
Adler is survived by his wife, Susan Ivory; three of his four children; and three grandchildren.
Via NY Daily