Bob Merrill

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Bob Merrill
Birth nameHenry Robert Merrill Levan
Born(1921-05-17)May 17, 1921
Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States
DiedFebruary 17, 1998(1998-02-17) (aged 76)
Culver City, California, U.S.
  • Songwriter
  • theatrical composer
  • lyricist
  • screenwriter

Henry Robert Merrill Levan (May 17, 1921 – February 17, 1998)[1] was an American songwriter, theatrical composer, lyricist, and screenwriter.[2] He was one of the most successful songwriters of the 1950s on the US and UK single charts.[3] He wrote musicals for the Broadway stage, including Carnival! (music and lyrics) and Funny Girl (lyrics).

Life and career[edit]

Merrill played an important role in American popular music; though not able to play a musical instrument, he tapped out many of the hit parade songs of the 1950s on a toy xylophone,[4] including "(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?", "Mambo Italiano" and "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake"[5][4] as well as writing music and lyrics for several Broadway shows including Funny Girl.

Merrill was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey and raised in Philadelphia over his family's candy factory and soda fountain. As a teenager, he wanted to be a singer and performed in all local talent contests, and even worked as an impressionist-emcee at a local burlesque house. His plans for a career in show business were cut short by the advent of World War II when he was drafted into the Horse Cavalry Division of the Army. After the war, Merrill moved to Hollywood, where he worked as a dialogue director for Columbia Pictures[5] and while on location for a film, he was asked to write some songs for the actress in the film, Dorothy Shay, who was recording an album at the time. Shay's album Park Avenue Hillbilly became a hit which launched his career.[5] Soon he was invited to collaborate with Al Hoffman and Clem Watts to write some songs. They came up with a novelty song "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake", recorded in 1948 by Eileen Barton.[1] He also co-wrote the Moon Mullican song "You Don't Have to Be a Baby to Cry".

The other Top Ten songs for which he is best known include[4][6][7]

Guy Mitchell recorded many of Merrill's songs including "Sparrow in the Treetop", "She Wears Red Feathers", and "My Truly, Truly Fair".

Merrill made his Broadway debut in 1957 with New Girl in Town, a musical adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie. The musical was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical.[8] Take Me Along followed in 1959, with music and lyrics by Merrill, starring Jackie Gleason and Walter Pidgeon. The musical was nominated for the 1960 Tony Award for Best Musical.[9] In 1961, the film Lili was made into the Broadway musical Carnival!, starring Anna Maria Alberghetti with words and music by Merrill. The musical was nominated for the 1962 Tony Award for Best Musical.[10]

He had theatrical success with the Barbra Streisand musical Funny Girl, (1964) which introduced the standards "People" and "Don't Rain on My Parade". Merrill and Jule Styne were nominated for the 1964 Tony Award for Best Composer and Lyricist.[11] When the stage show was adapted for film, he and songwriting partner Jule Styne were asked to write a title tune, which was nominated for the 1968 Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Song. [12][13]

Producer David Merrick hired Merrill to write additional songs for the musical Hello, Dolly!. Merrill contributed two songs, "Motherhood March" and "Elegance", and some additional lyrics to Jerry Herman's "It Takes a Woman". Merrill did not accept billing or credit for his additions to the score. He is also the lyricist of the theme song "Loss Of Love",[14] from the 1970 Italian drama film Sunflower and composed by Henry Mancini.

Merrill's other Broadway credits include Breakfast at Tiffany's (1966), Henry, Sweet Henry (1967), Sugar (1972) (reworked as Some Like It Hot for a 1992 production in London's West End starring Tommy Steele and a 2002-2003 United States national tour starring Tony Curtis as Osgood Fielding, Jr.), and The Red Shoes (1993).[15]

He wrote the book and lyrics for the musical Prettybelle (1971), which closed in Boston during tryouts. Angela Lansbury starred, with direction by Gower Champion.[16] He wrote the music and lyrics for the musical The Prince of Grand Street (1978), which closed during its Boston tryouts. The musical starred Robert Preston and was directed by Gene Saks. Because of reviews during the Philadelphia tryout, an entire new first act was written for Boston.[17]

He was nominated for the Tony Award five times, but never won. However, in 1961 he won the New York Drama Critics Award for his work on Carnival!.[1][18] Merrill's screenwriting credits include W. C. Fields and Me (1976),[19] and the television movies Portrait of a Showgirl (1982)[20] and The Animated Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1998).[21] Among Merrill's television credits were two holiday specials, Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962) [22] and The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood (1965), written for Liza Minnelli.[23][24]

Personal life and death[edit]

Merrill was married to Dolores Marquez in 1964; they divorced and he married Suzanne Reynolds in 1976.[7] Merrill became ill with various ailments in the mid-1990s; suffering from depression,[tone] he killed himself on February 17, 1998.[1][25]

Stage musicals[edit]

Source: Playbill[6]

Merrill compositions recorded by Guy Mitchell[edit]

Source: AllMusic[29]


  1. ^ a b c d Ankeny, Jason. "Bob Merrill - Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-11-02.
  2. ^ "The official site of American songwriter and Broadway composer". Bob Merrill. 1998-02-17. Archived from the original on 2012-12-26. Retrieved 2012-11-02.
  3. ^ "Full US Top 100 50 Years Ago". Dave McAleer. 1962-01-27. Archived from the original on 2012-04-03. Retrieved 2012-11-02.
  4. ^ a b c Haun, Harry. "Bob Merrill: The Music That Made Him" playbill, August 25, 2011
  5. ^ a b c "Bob Merrill", accessed March 24, 2019
  6. ^ a b Mandelbaum, Ken. "Ken Mandelbaum's MUSICALS ON DISC: Remembering Bob Merrill" playbill, March 1, 1998
  7. ^ a b Vallance, Tom. "Obituary: Bob Merrill" Independent, 20 February 1998
  8. ^ " 'New Girl in Town' Broadway" Playbill, retrieved October 10, 2017
  9. ^ Take Me Along, accessed March 24, 2019
  10. ^ Carnival!, accessed March 24, 2019
  11. ^ ' 'Funny Girl' Broadway" Playbill, retrieved October 10, 2017
  12. ^ "The 41st Academy Awards | 1969". | Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  13. ^ " 'Funny Girl' Film Awards", retrieved October 10, 2017
  14. ^ " Sunflower, "Loss Of Love"
  15. ^ "Bob Merrill Broadway" Playbill, retrieved october 10, 2017
  16. ^ " 'Prettybelle' Closing After Boston Tryout" The New York Times, March 3, 1971
  17. ^ " 'Grand Street' Will Close in Boston" The New York Times, April 11, 1978
  18. ^ ' 'Carnival!' Broadway" Playbill, retrieved October 10, 2017
  19. ^ W. C. Fields and Me, accessed March 24, 2019
  20. ^ Portrait of a Showgirl, accessed March 24, 2019
  21. ^ "The Animated Adventures of Tom Sawyer". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  22. ^ Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol Paley Center, accessed March 24, 2019
  23. ^ The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood, accessed March 24, 2019
  24. ^ The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood, accessed March 24, 2019
  25. ^ Times. "Prolific Songwriter Bob Merrill Dies At 74 "Funny Girl" Among His Many Popular Broadway Musicals - - Feb. 19, 1998". Retrieved 2012-11-02.
  26. ^ Wilson, John S. "Musical: 'We're Home,' With Songs by Merrill" The New York Times, October 28, 1984
  27. ^ Gussow, Mel. "Review/Theater; A Jew Confronts a Nazi In a Prewar Musical" The New York Times, June 2, 1990
  28. ^ Green, Judith. " 'Shoes' Steps Into History As an All-Time Flop" Chicago Tribune, December 22, 1993
  29. ^ "Guy Mitchell Songs", accessed March 24, 2019

External links[edit]