Richard Adler

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Richard Adler
Born(1921-08-03)August 3, 1921
New York City, U.S.
DiedJune 21, 2012(2012-06-21) (aged 90)
Southampton, New York, U.S.
  • Composer
  • writer
  • lyricist
  • producer

Richard Adler (August 3, 1921 – June 21, 2012) was an American lyricist, writer, composer and producer of several Broadway shows.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Adler was born in New York City,[1] the son of Elsa Adrienne (née Richard) and Clarence Adler.[2] His mother was a debutante from Mobile, Alabama.[3] Adler had a musical upbringing, his father being a renowned Jewish concert pianist, as well as teacher of such composers as Aaron Copland. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1943[4] and served in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II.[5] After his Navy service he began his career as a lyricist, teaming up with Jerry Ross in 1950.[1] As a duo they worked in tandem, both taking credit for lyrics and music.[1]

Adler and Ross years (1950–1955)[edit]

After establishing their partnership, Adler and Ross quickly became protégés of composer, lyricist and publisher Frank Loesser. Their first notable composition was the song "Rags to Riches",[6] which was recorded by Tony Bennett and reached number 1 on the charts in late 1953.

At the same time Bennett's recording was topping the charts, Adler and Ross began their career in Broadway theater with John Murray Anderson's Almanac, a revue for which they provided most of the songs.[6]

Adler and Ross's second Broadway effort, The Pajama Game, opened in May 1954 and was a popular as well as a critical success, winning Tony Awards as well as the Donaldson Award and the Variety Drama Critics Award. Three songs from the show were covered by popular artists and made the upper reaches of the US Hit Parade: Patti Page's version of "Steam Heat" reached No. 9; Archie Bleyer took "Hernando's Hideaway" to No. 2; and Rosemary Clooney's recording of "Hey There" made it to No. 1.[6]

Opening almost exactly a year later, their next vehicle, Damn Yankees replicated the awards and success of the earlier show.[1] Cross-over hits from the show were "Heart", recorded by Eddie Fisher, and "Whatever Lola Wants", by Sarah Vaughan.[1]

The duo had authored the music and lyrics for three great Broadway successes in three years, and had seen over a half-dozen of their songs reach the US top ten, two of them peaking at No. 1. However, their partnership was cut short when Ross died of leukemia[7] in November 1955, aged 29.[1]

Ross is believed to have died from complications related to the lung disease bronchiectasis.[8]

Later work[edit]

Adler continued to write both alone and with other partners, and composed a major 1958 hit in collaboration with Robert Allen: "Everybody Loves a Lover", as recorded by Doris Day. However, after 1955 Adler had no further successes on Broadway either as a composer or a producer, although revivals of The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees have proved popular. The 1973 revival of The Pajama Game included one new Adler song, which was retained for the 2006 revival.

His later musicals included Kwamina, which he wrote for his then-wife, Sally Ann Howes, who starred in the show opposite Terry Carter.[1] The musical centered around an interracial love story and was too controversial in a time when civil rights were hotly contested. It has not had a Broadway revival.

Adler wrote the musical Olympus 7-0000 for the show ABC Stage 67. His last original Broadway musical was 1976's Music Is (lyrics by Will Holt, music by Adler), based on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

In 2000, Debelah Morgan based her song "Dance With Me" on a sample of the Adler & Ross song "Hernando's Hideaway" from The Pajama Game. Adler & Ross consequently received co-composer credits on the track, which reached No. 8 on the US Billboard charts—and made Adler the unlikely 79-year-old co-composer of a 21st-century popular R&B hit.

In 2001, some Adler & Ross songs originally written for The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees were featured in the Broadway musical Fosse, about the work of Bob Fosse.

He also composed several symphonic and ballet pieces, including one to celebrate the Statue of Liberty's centennial.[5]

Adler staged and produced several shows for U.S. presidents; the most notable of these was a 1962 Madison Square Garden birthday celebration for John F. Kennedy that included Marilyn Monroe singing a version of Happy Birthday to the president in her trademark breathy voice.[5]

He is a member of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Adler was married three times. His second marriage was to English actress Sally Ann Howes in 1958. She adopted his two sons, Andrew and Broadway lyricist Christopher, after the death of his first wife in 1964. Howes appeared in her husband's TV musical Gift of the Magi, based on the O. Henry short story of that name, and starred in his Broadway musical Kwamina. They divorced in 1966. Christopher Adler died of cancer in 1984 at age 30.[9] He was a Democrat and, along with Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman John Bailey, Lena Horne, Carol Lawrence, Sidney Salomon, Vice-Chairwoman of the DNC Margaret B. Price, and Secretary of the DNC Dorothy Vredenburgh Bush, visited John F. Kennedy at The White House on November 20, 1963, two days prior to his assassination.[10]


Adler died on June 21, 2012, at his home in Southampton, New York, at age 90. He was survived by his third wife, Susan A. Ivory; his son, Andrew; his daughter, Katherine; and his stepson, Charlie Shipman.[11][12]

Selected works[edit]

Broadway and television work[edit]

As composer/lyricist, unless otherwise noted:

Broadway revivals[edit]

Popular songs[edit]

Awards, nominations and honors[edit]


  • Richard Adler with Lee Davis (1990). You Gotta Have Heart. Donald I. Fine, Inc. ISBN 1-55611-201-7.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 22. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ "Richard Adler Biography (1921–)". August 3, 1921. Retrieved November 7, 2012.
  3. ^ "Clarence Adler". October 18, 2012. Retrieved November 7, 2012.
  4. ^ "New Fight Song By Adler To Be Introduced Saturday". The Daily Tar Heel. September 21, 1966. p. 1. Retrieved May 5, 2015. open access
  5. ^ a b c d "Musical composer, lyricist Richard Adler dies at 90". CBC News. June 22, 2012.
  6. ^ a b c Jasen, David A. (2003). Tin Pan Alley: An Encyclopedia of the Golden Age of American Song. New York and London: Routledge. p. 3. ISBN 0415938775.
  7. ^ Suskin, Steven (2006). Second act trouble : behind the scenes at Broadway's big musical bombs. New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. ISBN 1-55783-631-0. OCLC 61362789.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Fein, Esther B. (December 2, 1984). "Christopher Adler, 30, Dies; Lyricist For Maclaine Show". The New York Times.
  10. ^ "Visit of Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman John Bailey, Lena Horne, Carol Lawrence, Richard Adler, Sidney Salomon, Vice-Chairwoman of the DNC Margaret B. Price, and Secretary of the DNC Dorothy Vredenburgh Bush, 11:30AM | JFK Library". Retrieved October 20, 2019.
  11. ^ Simonson, Robert. "Richard Adler, Composer of 'Pajama Game' and 'Damn Yankees', Dies at 90", June 22, 2012
  12. ^ "'Near to You': Composer Richard Adler Celebrated at Memorial". June 28, 2012.

External links[edit]