Bob Merrill

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Bob Merrill (born Henry Robert Merrill Levan, May 17, 1921 – February 17, 1998)[1] was an American songwriter, theatrical composer, lyricist, and screenwriter.[2] He was the most successful songwriter of the 1950s on the US and UK Singles Chart.[3]

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, including "(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?", "Mambo Italiano" and "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake" 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, Bob 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 with the Army. After the war, Bob moved to Hollywood, where he worked as a dialogue director for Columbia Pictures 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. Dorothy's album ″Park Avenue Hillbilly″ became a hit which launched Bob's career. Soon Bob 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]

The other eight songs which round out the Top Ten for which he is best-known include:

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.[4]

"Take Me Along", followed in 1959, with music and lyrics by Bob Merrill, starring Jackie Gleason and Walter Pidgeon.

In 1961, the film Lili was made into the Broadway musical Carnival, starring Anna Maria Alberghetti with words and music by Bob Merrill.

His greatest theatrical success was the Barbra Streisand musical Funny Girl, (1964) which introduced the standard "People" and "Don't Rain on My Parade".[5] When the stage show was adapted for film, he and songwriting partner Jule Styne were asked to write a title tune, which won the 1968 Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Song. [6][7]

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",[8] excerpt from the 1970 Italian drama film Sunflower and composed by Henry Mancini.

Merrill's other Broadway credits include Take Me Along (1959), Carnival! (1961), 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 2002-03 United States national tour starring Tony Curtis as Osgood Fielding, Jr.), and The Red Shoes (1993).[9]

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.[10] 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.[11]

He was nominated for the Tony Award eight times, but never won. However, in 1961 he won the New York Drama Critics Award for his work on Carnival!.[1][12]

Merrill's screenwriting credits include Mahogany (1975), W. C. Fields and Me (1976), and the television movies Portrait of a Showgirl (1982) and The Animated Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1998).

Among Merrill's television credits were two holiday specials, Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol and The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood, written specifically for Liza Minnelli.

Merrill became ill with various ailments in the mid-1990s and suffering from depression, he took his own life on February 17, 1998.[1][13]

Stage shows[edit]

Merrill compositions recorded by Guy Mitchell[edit]


  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. 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. ^ " 'New Girl in Town' Broadway" Playbill, retrieved October 10, 2017
  5. ^ ' 'Funny Girl' Broadway" Playbill, retrieved October 10, 2017
  6. ^ "The 41st Academy Awards | 1969". | Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  7. ^ " 'Funny Girl' Film Awards", retrieved October 10, 2017
  8. ^ Loss Of Love
  9. ^ "Bob Merrill Broadway" Playbill, retrieved october 10, 2017
  10. ^ " 'Prettybelle' Closing After Boston Tryout" The New York Times, March 3, 1971
  11. ^ " 'Grand Street' Will Close in Boston" The New York Times, April 11, 1978
  12. ^ ' 'Carnival!' Broadway" Playbill, retrieved October 10, 2017
  13. ^ Times. "Prolific Songwriter Bob Merrill Dies At 74 "Funny Girl" Among His Many Popular Broadway Musicals - - Feb. 19, 1998". Retrieved 2012-11-02.
  14. ^ Wilson, John S. "Musical: 'We're Home,' With Songs by Merrill" The New York Times, October 28, 1984
  15. ^ [Gussow, Mel. "Review/Theater; A Jew Confronts a Nazi In a Prewar Musical" The New York Times, June 2, 1990

External links[edit]