Artist Details

Richard Rodgers

Richard Rodgers was the most successful composer of popular music for the theater in the 20th century. Over the course of a 60-year career, he wrote the song scores for 42 musicals staged on Broadway or in the West End, as well as 11 movie musicals and two television musicals (not counting numerous film and TV adaptations of his stage productions), along with a few instrumental works. Although many of his songs became popular hits in sheet music and on records, he never wrote music independent from some dramatic context. In addition to composing, he also occasionally collaborated on librettos for his shows and served as a producer for them. His work won him Pulitzer Prizes, Tony Awards, Grammy Awards, and an Academy Award. For most of his career, he worked exclusively with one of two lyricists, Lorenz Hart (from 1919 to 1943) or Oscar Hammerstein II (from 1943 to 1960). His 38 professional shows and films with Hart are remembered primarily for the individual songs that came out of them, including "Manhattan," "Blue Moon," "It's Easy to Remember," "Soon," and "There's a Small Hotel," all of which were recorded for major hits. For the 11 productions with Hammerstein (nine stage musicals, one movie musical, and one television musical), it's the works themselves that remain memorable, particularly Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music, each of which produced an original-cast and/or soundtrack album that topped the charts. Rodgers adapted his writing style to each partner. With Hart, who usually wrote the lyrics after Rodgers had composed the tune, he wrote catchy songs that matched his partner's wit and wordplay, resulting in compositions that attracted jazz musicians as well as pop singers. With Hammerstein, who usually wrote the words first, he created sweeping, long-lined melodies that sometimes recalled operetta. (He once said that he often met people who thought that the Rodgers of Rodgers & Hart was a different person from the Rodgers of Rodgers & Hammerstein, and he wasn't entirely sure they were wrong.) After Hammerstein's death, Rodgers continued to work for another 19 years -- right up to his own death, in fact -- sometimes collaborating with new lyricists, but frequently writing both words and music by himself, and some of his more successful works late in life were the ones he did alone.