- 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."
Watch a short video about influential composer Richard Rodgers and his road to fame.
Watch a short video about Oscar Hammerstein II and find out what new technique he used when writing musicals.
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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.'"
Rodgers and Hammerstein had a hit right out of the starting gate with Oklahoma!, which gave Rodgers the notion to exercise his business head. Rodgers and Hammerstein also formed a company that allowed them, as well as other writers, to control their own work. This freedom and financial success led them to become producers as well, backing plays,
concerts and national tours, in addition to musicals.
Rodgers & Hammerstein was a powerhouse, transforming Broadway and musical theater by basing shows on plays and novels, using original dialogue and creating seamless storytelling, from formats of speech to song. The duo created some of the most enduring musicals of all time in the 1940s and '50s, including Carousel, The King and I, The Sound of Music and South Pacific, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Additionally, Rodgers & Hammerstein created a special television musical of Cinderella—their only musical written for TV—which starred Julie Andrews and was first broadcast in 1957.
After Hammerstein died in 1960, Rodgers collaborated with Stephen Sondheim and Martin Charnin, among others, and he became the first person to accumulate every major award possible in his field: Tonys, Emmys, Grammys, Oscars and two Pulitzer Prizes, in addition to numerous honorary awards. Rodgers was also among the first honorees of the newly created Kennedy Center Honors in 1978; President Jimmy Carter presented him with the award.
In his later years, Rodgers created numerous awards and scholarships for artists at the Juilliard School of Music, the American Theater Wing and the American Academy of Dramatic Art, among other schools.
Richard Rodgers triumphed over cancer of the jaw in 1955 and a laryngectomy in 1974 before dying at his home in New York City on December 30, 1979. His ashes were scattered at sea by his wife, Dorothy (Feiner) Rodgers, whom he had married in 1930. The couple had two daughters, Mary and Linda. The musical gene proved to run in the family, with Mary composing Once Upon a Mattress and Rodgers's grandsons, Adam Guettel and Peter Melnick, composing Light in the Piazza and Adrift in Macao, respectively.
In 1990, Rodgers was posthumously awarded Broadway's highest honor: a theater named after him on 46th Street in Manhattan, New York. A devoted art collector, Rodgers is remembered in his old neighborhood of Mount Morris Park in Harlem, New York, for building a million-dollar recreation center and theater.
Today, Richard Rodgers is credited with writing between 900 and 1,500 songs, an estimated 85 of which are considered standards. To date, 19 film versions of his musicals have been made. As one critic put it, "Probably not a day goes by without a show of his being performed somewhere in the world."
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