- NAME: Richard Rodgers
- OCCUPATION: Songwriter, Singer
- BIRTH DATE: June 28, 1902
- DEATH DATE: December 30, 1979
- Did You Know?: Richard Rodgers is one of only 14 people to have received the four major entertainment honors—Emmy, Oscar, Tony and Grammy awards.
- EDUCATION: Columbia University, The Juilliard School, P.S. 10, Townsend Harris Hall, DeWitt Clinton High School
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Queens, New York
- PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
- Full Name: Richard Charles Rodgers
- AKA: Richard Rodgers
Best Known For
From The Sound of Music to Oklahoma! to South Pacific, Richard Rodgers helped change the face of Broadway musicals, giving them stories and making them both memorable and "hum-able."
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Along with Jerome Kern, Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers was a pioneer in crafting what became the quintessential American musical, integrating stories from books and plays and creating seamless storytelling from speech to song. He also innovated the business end of show business,
"What's wrong with sweetness and light? It's been around quite awhile."
"I don't believe that a writer does something wonderful spontaneously. I believe it's the result of years of living, of study, reading his very personality and temperament. At one particular moment, all these come together and the artist 'expresses' himself."
"There isn't anything I wanted to do that I haven't. At the same time, there isn't anything I've ever done that I didn't want to do better.
"I admit, with no modesty whatever, that not many people can do it. But when they say, 'You're a genius,' I say, 'No, it's my job.'"
"Larry [Hart] was ... inclined to be cynical. Oscar [Hammerstein II] was more sentimental and so the music had to be more sentimental. It wouldn't have been natural for Larry to write 'Oklahoma!' any more than it would have been natural for Oscar to write 'Pal Joey.'"
allowing writers to keep control of their creations. Rodgers won every major award possible in his field and it is safe to say that at any point in time, one of his musicals is being reproduced somewhere in the world, and that someone is humming one of his famous songs.
Prolific composer Richard Charles Rodgers was the second son born to physician Dr. William Rodgers and his wife, Mamie, on June 28, 1902, when they were staying at a friend's summer house near Arverne, in Queens, New York. Not long after, the family moved to Upper Manhattan, ironically mere blocks away from Richard's future songwriting partners, Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II.
Richard Rodgers remembers his family life as fraught and filled with bickering and tension due in part to his maternal grandmother's forceful personality. He did, however, learn to play the piano as a toddler because it was a theater-loving household; his parents saw Broadway shows, and his grandparents were partial to opera. Though his mother was more prone to bouts of hypochondria than boundless affection, she would play tunes from shows they'd seen on the piano when Dr. Rodgers brought home the sheet music to sing. Rodgers inherited all of this and became the darling of the family for his quick adaptability to the music and harmony.
Summer camp provided another respite from family drama, and was where Rodgers composed his first melody. By the age of 15, he had chosen musical theater as his profession. The music of Jerome Kern had been a revelation. Rodgers was thrilled to be accepted to Columbia University, where he would write for the school's famous Varsity Show, an annual production.
Richard Rogers's elder brother, Mortimer, with whom he had rivaled as a child, ended up being the conduit for the famed partnerships of Richard's future career: At an early Varsity Show, he introduced the young Richard to Oscar Hammerstein II, and in the winter of 1918-19, a friend of Mortimer's introduced him to Lorenz Hart, with whom he developed an instant partnership that would last until Hart's death in 1943.
Lorenz Hart was 7 years older than Richard Rodgers, who was only 16 when they began their musical collaboration. "I'll Take Manhattan" was their breakthrough hit, and scores of other songs yielded many of today's standards, including "Blue Moon," "My Funny Valentine," "Isn't It Romantic?" and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered." Together, Rodgers and Hart wrote the music and lyrics for 26 Broadway musicals.
Rodgers's collaboration with Oscar Hammerstein II began in 1942, when Hart had become too ill to write, and would last until Hammerstein's death in 1960.
Rodgers once described how his music changed based on the two lyricists: "Larry [Hart] was ... inclined to be cynical," he said, whereas, "Oscar was more sentimental and so the music had to be more sentimental.
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