Born in New York City on May 2, 1895, Lorenz Hart is best known for his collaborations with Richard Rodgers, including "My Funny Valentine" and "Blue Moon." Hart played an instrumental role in the American musical with his raw, haunting and intellectual lyrics. He died in New York City on November 22, 1943.
Early Life and Career
Lorenz Milton Hart was born on May 2, 1895, in New York City, to Max and Freida Hart, Jewish immigrants of Eastern European and German descent. Nicknamed Larry, Lorenz Hart was the eldest of two children and attended private school in his youth.
While studying journalism at Columbia University, in 1916, Hart worked for the Shuberts, translating German plays. In 1918, when Hart was 23 years old, he met 16-year-old songwriter Richard Rodgers through a mutual friend. The two soon began to collaborate, writing songs for a number of amateur productions, including Columbia University's 1920 Varsity Show. It was the beginning of what would become a 25-year partnership between the two.
In 1919, the duo's song "Any Old Place With You" was picked up to be included in the Broadway musical comedy A Lonely Romeo. Rodgers and Hart continued to worked tirelessly thereafter, creating unique music that seemed to contrast the light, glitzy feel of Broadway music at the time.
Hart's lyrics were often emotionally fueled, sometimes even very dark. In his private life, Hart dealt with lifelong rejection. His father was a cold man who shut him out. Hart struggled with being a homosexual in a time of social unrest surrounding the topic. He also suffered from acute dwarfism. During World War I, he was embarrassingly denied enrollment in the U.S. Army due to his height—just under 5 feet. But Hart turned these negative experiences into energy to write songs lyrics with which the public could identify on a more intelligent and sophisticated plane than most other popular music of the time.
Rodgers and Hart found their first big Broadway success with their debut show, The Garrick Gaieties, which opened on June 8, 1925. From here, the success of the famed songwriting team began to skyrocket. Throughout the 1920s and early '30s, the two wrote an astonishing amount of musical scores that were performed on both Broadway and London's West End. Their biggest hit, A Connecticut Yankee, opened in 1927, and other songwriting credits of the time include Betsy, Peggy-Ann and Chee-Chee. The team then took a break from stage shows to compose songs for movie musicals, including the esteemed Love Me Tonight, starring Maurice Chevalier, and Mississippi, starring Bing Crosby. Around this same time, they wrote the hit classic "Blue Moon," later covered by artists like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday.
Rodgers and Hart returned to the stage in 1935 with the musical Jumbo, featuring the widely popular songs "My Romance" and "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World." The duo went on to wow audiences and gain critical acclaim, writing scores for a number of popular Broadway musicals from 1936 to 1943—each one seemingly increasingly spectacular—including On Your Toes (1936), Babes in Arms (1937), I'd Rather Be Right (1937), I Married an Angel (1938), The Boys From Syracuse (1939), Too Many Girls (1939), Higher and Higher (1940), Pal Joey (1940) and By Jupiter (1942). Popular scores from this period include "My Funny Valentine" and "The Lady is a Tramp"—both performed in the musical Babes in Arms.
Though unstoppable in his professional success, Hart suffered from alcoholism and became increasingly unstable. He was known to disappear for days on end, during which times he was typically in a serious alcoholic haze.
In 1943, on the opening night of a revival of A Connecticut Yankee, Hart crashed his own show without a ticket, causing such a public spectacle in his drunken stupor that he was removed from the theater. Days after the scene, Hart developed pneumonia. He died from complications of his illness on November 22, 1943, in New York City. Though Lorenz Hart dealt with many demons during his lifetime, his legacy leaves behind some of the most haunting and timeless songs in music history.
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