Sheldon Harnick, a writer who won both a Tony and a Grammy, has di*d. He and composer Jerry Bock were one of the best songwriting teams in musical theater in the 1950s and 1960s, working on shows like Fiddler on the Roof, Fiorello!, and The Apple Tree. He was 99. Harnick di*d in his sleep in New York City on Friday. His spokesman, Sean Katz, said that he di*d of natural causes.
In 1960, the music and lyrics to Fiorello! made Bock and Harnick famous for the first time. The show won them both a Tony Award and a rare Pulitzer Prize. Harnick was also nominated for Tonys for The Apple Tree in 1967, The Rothschild in 1971, and Cyrano – The Musical in 1994.
After the first show of Shangri-La, a musical that Harnick had helped write the songs for, actor Jack Cassidy brought Bock and Harnick together at a restaurant. The Body Beautiful was the first musical by Harnick and Bock. It came out in 1958.
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They would become one of the most important teams in the history of Broadway. Producers Robert E. Griffith and Hal Prince liked the songs from The Body Beautiful, so they hired Bock and Harnick to write the score for their next show, Fiorello!, a musical about the liberal mayor of New York City.
Then, in 1960 and 1963, Bock and Harnick worked together on the songs Tenderloin and She Loves Me. Neither was a hit, though She Loves Me won a Grammy for best score from a cast record. However, their next show, Fiddler on the Roof, was a huge success and is still performed all over the world. In 1965, it won two Tony Awards.
It was based on stories by Sholom Aleichem, which Stein turned into a libretto. It was set in the Russian town of Anatevka in 1905 and told the story of Orthodox Jews from eastern Europe. It ran for almost eight years and had songs like Sunrise, Sunset, If I Were a Rich Man, and Matchmaker, Matchmaker. Zero Mostel played Teyve in the show. Danny Burstein played Tevye in the last Broadway version, which was nominated for a Tony Award for best revival.
Next, Bock and Harnick wrote the book and music for The Apple Tree in 1966. In 1970, Sherman Yellen wrote the book for The Rothschilds, and Bock and Harnick wrote the music. It was the last time the two worked together.
Variety twitter post on Sheldon Harnick De@th:
Sheldon Harnick, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ Lyricist, Dies at 99 https://t.co/oW3DJHeaT5
— Variety (@Variety) June 23, 2023
Harnick went on to work with Michel Legrand on The Umbrellas of Cherbourg in 1979 and a musical version of A Christmas Carol in 1981. He also worked with Mary Rodgers on a version of Pinocchio in 1973, Arnold Black on a musical version of The Phantom Tollbooth, and Richard Rodgers on the score to Rex, a Broadway musical about Henry VIII, in 1976.
His work for TV and movies included songs for the 1991 HBO animated film The Tale of Peter Rabbit, with music by Stephen Lawrence, and lyrics for the opening number of the 1988 Academy Awards broadcast. He wrote the theme songs for The Heartbreak Kid (1972) and Blame it on Rio (1984), both of which had music by Cy Coleman.
He and his wife, the artist Margery Gray Harnick, had two children, Beth and Matthew, and two grandkids. Harnick was married to actress Elaine May in the past. He had been a part of the Dramatists Guild and Songwriters Guild for a long time.
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