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Adler,Richard

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Adler, Richard, American songwriter; b. N.Y., Aug. 3, 1921. With Jerry Ross, Adler wrote music and lyrics to several hit songs in the early 1950s, among them “Rags to Riches.” The two then wrote the songs for two successful Broadway musicals, The Pajama Game (featuring “Hey There” and “Hernando’s Hideaway”) and Damn Yankees (featuring “Heart” and “Whatever Lola Wants”). Following Ross’s early death, Adler continued to write for the musical theater, although he also worked in government and advertising.

Adler’s parents were Clarence and Elsa Adrienne Richard Adler. His father was a concert pianist and music teacher. Adler attended the Univ. of N.C. at Chapel Hill, where he studied playwrighting with Paul Green. Graduating with a B.A. in 1943, he joined the navy and spent the rest of World War II serving in Central America. In 1946 he returned to N.Y. and found a job as a writer in the public relations department of the Celanese Corporation of America. During the next few years he increasingly turned his attention to songwriting.

Adler had his first chart record in November 1950, with a novelty answer-song to the recent hit “Goodnight Irene” (music and lyrics by Lead Belly) called “Please Say Goodnight to the Guy, Irene” (music and lyrics also by John Jacob Loeb), recorded by Ziggy Talent. He formed a partnership that year with Jerry Ross (Jerold Rosenberg); they collaborated on both music and lyrics. They enjoyed their first success when Eddy Howard and His Orch. took “The Strange Little Girl” into the charts in June 1951. On Sept. 4, 1951, Adler married Marion Hart Rogier. They had two sons, one of whom, Christopher Adler, became a lyricist. They divorced on Jan. 3, 1958.

Adler and Ross wrote special material for various performers and for the television series Stop the Music . They earned their first Top Ten hit in January 1953 with “Even Now” (music and lyrics also by Dave Kapp), recorded by Eddie Fisher. “Rags to Riches” gave them their first million-selling #1 hit in November, in a recording by Tony Bennett. The following month they were the primary songwriters for the Broadway revue John Murray Anderson’s Almanac, which ran 229 performances. They wrote all the songs for the book musical The Pajama Game, which opened in May 1955 and became a giant hit, running 1, 063 performances and winning the Tony Award for Best Musical. The cast album reached the Top Ten, and the score generated three hits: “Hey There,” which topped the charts and sold a million copies in a recording by Rosemary Clooney; “Hernando’s Hideaway,” a #1 for Archie Bleyer; and “Steam Heat,” which Patti Page took into the Top Ten. Adler and Ross returned to Broadway in May 1955 with Damn Yankees, which repeated the success of The Pajama Game: it ran 1, 019 performances andwon the Tony Award for Best Musical; the cast album reached the Top Ten; and the score spawned three hits, “Heart” for Eddie Fisher and “Whatever Lola Wants” for Sarah Vaughan, each of which made the Top Ten, and “Two Lost Souls” for Perry Como and Jaye P. Morgan, which reached the Top 40. Unfortunately, Ross died of chronic bronchiectasis at age 29 on Nov. 11, 1955.

Adler’s first work as a sole songwriter came with the Broadway play The Sin of Pat Muldoon (N.Y., March 13, 1957), which he coproduced and for which he wrote the title song. In August 1957 a faithful film adaptation of The Pajama Game, starring Doris Day, opened; the soundtrack album reached the Top Ten. Adler married British actress and singer Sally Ann Howes on Jan. 3, 1958; they divorced in 1966. He returned to writing independent songs, penning the lyrics to Robert Allen’s music for “Everybody Loves a Lover,” which became a Top Ten hit for Doris Day in July 1958. In September a faithful film adaptation of Damn Yankees opened; the soundtrack album reached the charts. Adler coproduced and wrote music and lyrics for two television musicals broadcast in the fall, Little Women and The Gift of the Magi (his wife appeared in the latter). He and Robert Allen had another chart success in January 1959, when the Four Lads took “The Girl on Page 44” into the Top 40.

Adler next turned to writing a new Broadway musical. Kwamina, starring Sally Ann Howes, opened in October 1961; it was a failure, running only 32 performances, but the cast album reached the charts. After this, Adler wrote commercial jingles and produced and staged special shows for the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. In 1964 he became a trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., retaining the post until 1977. He was a consultant on the arts for the White House from 1965 to 1969. During this period his older songs were revived for hits. In December 1962 the Shirelles reached the Top 40 with a new recording of “Everybody Loves a Lover”; “Rags to Riches” was revived for a chart entry by Sunny & the Sunliners in November 1963; and Decca Records reissued Burl Ives’s 1953 recording of “True Love Goes On and On” (music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross) for a chart entry in December 1963.

Adler’s next significant musical project was a television musical, Olympus 7-0000, broadcast in September 1966, which he coproduced and for which he wrote the songs. His next stage musical, A Mother’s Kisses (New Haven, Sept. 23, 1968), got as far as out-of-town try outs but closed before reaching Broadway. On Dec. 27, 1968, he married Ritchey Farrell Banker; they divorced in 1976. (In the early 1980s he married Mary St. George.) Elvis Presley revived “Rags to Riches” for a Top 40 hit in March 1971. Adler coproduced a revival of The Pajama Game (N.Y., Dec. 9, 1973) that ran 65 performances on Broadway and coproduced the unsuccessful Richard Rodgers-Sheldon Harnick musical Rex (N.Y., April 25, 1976). With lyricist Will Holt, he wrote the songs for Music Is, a musical version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, but it ran only eight performances on Broadway after opening in December 1976.

In the second half of the 1970s Adler turned to composing symphonic works, notably Memory of Childhood, premiered by the Detroit Sym. on Oct. 6, 1978; Retrospectrum, premiered by the Soviet Emigré Orch. at Carnegie Hall on July 10, 1979; Yellowstone, introduced by the Metropolitan Brass Quartet in N.Y., then rewritten for sym. orch. as Yellowstone Overture and premiered by the American Philharmonic Orch. in N.Y. on Nov. 2, 1980; Wilderness Suite, premiered by the Utah Sym. on Feb. 5, 1983; Eight by Adler, an adaptation of eight of his popular songs, performed by the Chicago City Ballet in 1984; The Lady Remembers (The Statue of Liberty Suite), premiered by the Detroit Sym. in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 28, 1985; and Fanfare and Overture for the U.S. Olympics Festival (1987).

A Broadway revival of Damn Yankees opened on March 3, 1994, and ran 510 performances, during which Jerry Lewis joined the cast. Lewis starred in a touring production of the show that played internationally for years. Returning to the musical theater, Adler wrote the music and co wrote the lyrics with librettist Bill C. Davis for the musical Off-Key, which was produced at the George Street Theatre in New Brunswick, N.J., starting April 7, 1995.

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