Kleban was born in the Bronx, New York in 1939 and graduated from New York's High School of Music & Art and Columbia University, where he attended with future playwright Terrance McNally. Kleban is best known as lyricist of the Broadway hit A Chorus Line. He and composer Marvin Hamlisch won the 1976 Tony Award for Best Original Score, and he shared the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1976 with Hamlisch and three other contributors to the musical. The one-woman Phyllis Newman show, The Madwoman of Central Park West (1979), featured a few tunes with his lyrics. For several years he worked at Columbia Records, where he produced albums by performers as diverse as Igor Stravinsky and Percy Faith and the album for the Off-Broadway musical Now Is The Time For All Good Men. He was a teacher for many years at the BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) Musical Theater Workshop.
In his will, Kleban established the Kleban Foundation which grants annual awards, each in the amount of $100,000 over two years, to the most promising librettist and lyricist in American musical theatre. The awards are administered by BMI. His will also granted rights to his collection of unpublished songs to friends Avery Corman and Wendy Wasserstein with the request that they incorporate them into a new musical. Their attempts failed and the rights reverted to Kleban's longtime companion, librettist Linda Kline. Kline sought someone who did not know or work with Kleban, but who would learn about him through the material. She admired previous work of Lonny Price and sought him as a collaborator.
After six years of work, with Price and Kline as co-authors, Price directed and played the role of Ed in A Class Act, a musical biography of Kleban with a score consisting of songs he wrote for numerous unproduced musicals. After a two-month run at the Manhattan Theatre Club, it transferred to the Ambassador Theatre on March 10, 2001 and ran for three additional months. Almost 14 years after his death, Kleban earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Original Score and Drama Desk nominations for Outstanding Music and Outstanding Lyrics.
- David Kaufman (March 11, 2001). "His Lyrics Made It to Broadway, Now His Songs". New York Times. NYTimes.com. Retrieved 2011-03-11.
- "Looking at Ed Kleban, Broadway songwriter, and A Class Act, the musical about his life". Weekend Edition Saturday. 10 March 2001. NPR. Retrieved 2011-03-11.
- "Edward Kleban, 48, 'Chorus Line' Lyricist". New York Times. NYTimes.com. December 30, 1987. Retrieved 2011-03-11.
- "Kleban Awards". bmi.com. 6 June 2001. Retrieved 2011-03-11.
- Andrew Gans (1 May 2008). "Lindsay-Abaire Snags Kleban Award for Lyrics; Harrington, Solly and Ward Also Honored". Playbill. playbill.com. Retrieved 2011-03-11.
- Bruce Weber (12 March 2001). "What a Songwriter Couldn't Do in Life, Friends Have Done". New York Times. NYTimes.com.
- "A Class Act". ibdb.com. Retrieved 2011-03-11.