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June 25, 2012

Tony Award-winning Broadway Great Richard Adler Dies at 92

ASCAP member and Broadway great Richard Adler died on June 21st at his Southampton, NY home at the age of 90. Adler and the late Jerry Ross (1926-1955) were the Tony-winning co-writers of the scores for the 1950’s classic Broadway musicals The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees. Those shows yielded numerous enduring standards, including: “Hey, There (You with the Stars in Your Eyes),” “Hernando’s Hideaway,” “Steam Heat,” “Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)” and “Heart.” With Ross, Adler also wrote Tony Bennett’s early smash hit, “Rags to Riches.” Another notable Adler song is “Everybody Loves a Lover,” a 1958 collaboration with Bob Allen that was a major recording for Doris Day (1958) and the Shirelles (1963).

Richard Adler was born in Manhattan on August 3, 1921. His father, Clarence, was a pianist and music teacher, though Richard initially preferred baseball to music. After graduating from the University of North Carolina and serving in the Navy during World War II, Adler met Jerry Ross outside New York’s Brill Building in 1950. Each contributed music and lyrics to their collaboration. Their two legendary shows, Pajama Game and Damn Yankees, each ran over 1000 performances and each has been successfully revived and made into a Hollywood musical.

Adler continued to make music after the passing of Jerry Ross, creating concert music works, commercial jingles and the Tony-nominated 1961 Broadway musical, Kwamina, and Adler’s 1976 theatrical collaboration with lyricist Will Holt, Music Is. Adler was also well-known as a producer of musical extravaganzas, including the famous 1962 fund-raiser for President John F. Kennedy that featured Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President.”

Adler wrote a well-received autobiography in 1990, You Gotta Have Heart, with Lee Davis. Adler was honored with The ASCAP Foundation Richard Rodgers Award for his lifetime contributions to musical theater. Survivors include his wife, Susan A. Ivory; three children, Andrew Adler, Katherine Adler and Charles Shipman; and three grandchildren.