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Sheldon Harnick

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Sheldon Harnick
Harnick in 2006
Harnick in 2006
Background information
Birth nameSheldon Mayer Harnick
Born(1924-04-30)April 30, 1924
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedJune 23, 2023(2023-06-23) (aged 99)
New York City, New York, U.S.
GenresMusical theater
Years active1949–2023
  • Mary Boatner
    (m. 1950; ann. 1957)
  • (m. 1962; div. 1963)
  • Margery Gray
    (m. 1965)

Sheldon Mayer Harnick (April 30, 1924 – June 23, 2023) was an American lyricist and songwriter best known for his collaborations with composer Jerry Bock on musicals such as Fiorello!, She Loves Me, and Fiddler on the Roof.

Early life


Sheldon Mayer Harnick was born to American Jewish parents Esther (Kanter) and Harry M. Harnick, a dentist, in Chicago on April 30, 1924.[1][2] He grew up in the Chicago neighborhood of Portage Park.[3] He took an interest in music from an early age, playing the violin as a child. He began writing music while a student at Carl Schurz High School.[4]

Musical career


After serving in the U.S. Army, Harnick graduated from the Northwestern University School of Music (1946–1949) with a Bachelor of Music degree, and worked with various orchestras in the Chicago area. He then moved to New York City and wrote for many musicals and revues.[5] He was friends with Charlotte Rae from college, and he went to see her one night at the Village Vanguard where she was singing a revue. Yip Harburg, who was one of Harnick's idols, heard she was singing a song of his and decided to come. He told Harnick that he enjoyed his writing, and urged him to continue. Harburg advised Harnick to work with a large number of composers. He also counseled him to write character and comic songs, not ballads, for Broadway. Harnick’s composition "The Merry Minuet" was popularized by The Kingston Trio.[6]

Around 1956, Harnick met Jerry Bock, forming "what is arguably the most important musical partnership of the '60s."[7] Their first musical was The Body Beautiful, running for only 60 performances in 1958, but Fiorello! (1959) ran for 795 performances and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as the Tony Award for Best Musical. Fiddler on the Roof (1964) "became one of the most cherished of all Broadway musicals."[7] Other Broadway successes for Harnick included She Loves Me (1963), The Apple Tree (1966) and The Rothschilds (1970).[1]

Harnick wrote the libretto for the opera Coyote Tales, with music by Henry Mollicone, which received its world premiere at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City in March 1998.[8] He wrote the book, music and lyrics to the musical Dragons, which was performed in 2003 at the Luna Stage in Montclair, New Jersey.[9] He wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the book with Norton Juster for the musical The Phantom Tollbooth, based on the book by Juster. The musical premiered at the Kennedy Center in 2007.[10]

Harnick released the album Sheldon Harnick: Hidden Treasures (1949–2013) in 2014, which includes recordings of song demos and pieces cut from Broadway shows from his private collection.[11] In 2020, Harnick worked on a musical adaptation of the Soviet play The Dragon by Evgeny Schwartz.[12]

Personal life


Harnick was married three times. His 1950 marriage to Mary Boatner was annulled in 1957. His marriage to Elaine May lasted only a year, from 1962 until their divorce in 1963.[1] In 1965, he married Margery Grey. They had two children and lived in an apartment at The Beresford, a building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.[4][13] Harnick died there on June 23, 2023, aged 99.[1]

Stage productions


Honors and awards

  • In 1960, Harnick, Bock and Jerome Weidman (book) won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for Fiorello!.[20]
  • Harnick has won three Tony Awards. In 1960, he, Bock and Weidman tied with Rodgers and Hammerstein for best musical; that year, both Fiorello! and The Sound of Music won. And in 1965, Bock and Harnick's Fiddler on the Roof won for both Best Musical and Best Composer and Lyricist.[21]
  • In honor of Harnick's vast influence on American music, on May 19, 1984, he was awarded the University of Pennsylvania Glee Club Award of Merit. Beginning in 1964, this award "established to bring a declaration of appreciation to an individual each year that has made a significant contribution to the world of music and helped to create a climate in which our talents may find valid expression."[22]
  • Harnick was honored at the Twenty-Sixth Annual William Inge Theatre Festival located in Independence, Kansas, in 2007.[23][24]
  • Harnick and Jerry Bock were presented with the 18th Annual York Theatre Company's prestigious Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre in 2009.[25]
  • Harnick received the 2016 Drama League Award for Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre, as well as the 2016 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.[26]
  • Harnick received an honorary doctorate from Northwestern University in 2018.[27]
  • Harnick was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972 and received its highest honor, the Johnny Mercer Award, in 1990.[28]


  1. ^ a b c d Koseluk, Chris (June 23, 2023). "Sheldon Harnick, Famed 'Fiddler on the Roof' Lyricist, Dies at 99". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 23, 2023.
  2. ^ "Harnick, Sheldon 1924–". www.encyclopedia.com.
  3. ^ "Words into Song". Northwestern. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Berkvist, Robert (June 23, 2023). "Sheldon Harnick, 'Fiddler on the Roof' Lyricist, Dies at 99". The New York Times. Retrieved June 23, 2023.
  5. ^ "Biography of Sheldon Harnick". MTI Shows. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  6. ^ "Sheldon Harnick Approaching 90: Fiddler Lyricist Recalls a Mentor - Playbill.com". Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick". Broadway:The American Musical. PBS.org. Retrieved February 26, 2023.
  8. ^ "'Coyote Tales' listing" henrymollicone.com, accessed March 4, 2012
  9. ^ Jones, Kenneth."Sheldon Harnick's Musical, 'Dragons', Roars in NJ Starting Nov. 13; Harnick in the House for Opening", playbill.com, November 13, 2003
  10. ^ "'The Phantom Tollbooth' listing" kennedy-center.org, accessed March 4, 2012
  11. ^ "At 90, 'Fiddler' Lyricist Tells His Story". NPR.org. April 30, 2014. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
  12. ^ Gans, Andrew (April 24, 2020). "Checking in With Tony Winner Sheldon Harnick, Co-Creator of Fiddler on the Roof, Fiorello!, More". Playbill. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
  13. ^ Kaufman, Joanne (November 1, 2020). "Home Hits the Right Notes of Comfort and Beauty". The New York Times. p. RE5. Retrieved June 23, 2023.
  14. ^ a b c d e Kennedy, Mark (June 23, 2023). "Tony-winning lyricist Sheldon Harnick 'Fiddler on the Roof' creator, dies at 99". Associated Press. Retrieved June 23, 2023.
  15. ^ a b c "Sheldon Harnick". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Retrieved June 26, 2023.
  16. ^ Leeds, Ryan. "Interview With Sheldon Harnick: A "Fiddler" at the York" manhattandigest.com, February 11, 2014
  17. ^ "Sheldon Harnick". Internet Off-Broadway Database. Lucille Lortel Foundation. Retrieved June 23, 2023.
  18. ^ "Her First Roman - Broadway Creative Team". BroadwayWorld. Retrieved June 26, 2023.
  19. ^ a b c d "Sheldon Harnick biography". Writers Theatre. Retrieved June 26, 2023.
  20. ^ "Fiorello!, by Jerome Weidman, George Abbott, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick". Winners | The 1960 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Drama. Retrieved June 26, 2023.
  21. ^ "Sheldon Harnick". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  22. ^ "The University of Pennsylvania Glee Club Award of Merit Recipients". Archived from the original on February 9, 2012.
  23. ^ "Past Festivals – William Inge Center for the Arts". 2007 - Jerry Bock (1928-2010) & Sheldon Harnick
  24. ^ Pincus-Roth, Zachary (April 25, 2007). "Inge Festival Honoring Fiddler Writers Bock, Harnick and Stein Kicks Off April 25". Playbill. Retrieved June 26, 2023. Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joseph Stein, the writing team behind Fiddler on the Roof, will be honored at the 26th annual William Inge Theatre Festival in Independence, KS, which kicks off April 25.
  25. ^ Hetrick, Adam (November 23, 2009). "Bock and Harnick Receive Hammerstein Award Nov. 23; Cook, Kuhn, Kudisch and More Will Sing". Playbill. Archived from the original on October 13, 2012. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  26. ^ "The 2016 Tony Awards: Winners". Retrieved June 14, 2016.
  27. ^ Trotter, Kerry (June 23, 2023). "Sheldon Harnick, Northwestern Alum and Broadway Legend, Dead at 99". Northwestern University. Retrieved June 26, 2023.
  28. ^ "Sheldon Harnick | Songwriters Hall of Fame". www.songhall.org. Retrieved July 16, 2022.