Sherman Edwards

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Sherman Edwards
Birth nameSherman Edwards
Born(1919-04-03)April 3, 1919
New York City, U.S.
DiedMarch 30, 1981(1981-03-30) (aged 61)
Manhattan, New York
Occupation(s)Composer, pianist, songwriter

Sherman Edwards (April 3, 1919 – March 30, 1981) was an American composer, jazz pianist, and songwriter, best known for his songs from the 1969 Broadway musical 1776 and the 1972 film adaptation.

Early life[edit]

Edwards was born in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York City and was raised in the Weequahic section of Newark, New Jersey, where he attended Weequahic High School.[1] He attended New York University, where he majored in history.[2] Throughout college, Edwards moonlighted, playing jazz piano for late night radio and music shows. After serving in World War II, Edwards taught high school history for a brief period before continuing his career as a pianist, playing with some of history's most famous swing bands and artists, including Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman.[3]

He lived in Parsippany, New Jersey, from 1958 to 1981.[4][5]

Early music career[edit]

After a few years as a band leader and arranger for artist Mindy Carson, Edwards started writing pop songs at the famous Brill Building with writers including Hal David, Burt Bacharach, Sid Wayne, Earl Shuman and others.[citation needed] He turned out numerous hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s. As Rock n' Roll caught on, he found himself still at the Brill Building writing songs for Elvis Presley, including the Presley number Flaming Star. However, working with Presley's manager "The Colonel" proved to be Edwards' impetus to leave pop and rock songwriting; Presley's songwriters were forced to make huge monetary concessions in order to have their songs recorded by the great artist.[citation needed]

According to collaborator Earl Shuman, one day while collaborating with Edwards in the Brill building, where publishers provided music rooms for the songwriters, Edwards left mid-song saying something to the effect that he "wasn't into the rock songs any more" and that he had an idea for a show and was going home to write it.[citation needed] This began the evolution of 1776.[citation needed] Edwards talked to Peabody Award winning radio personality Mike Whorf about 1776 in an audio interview at Official 1776 web site.

Prior to 1776, Edwards had written the incidental music for the stage comedy A Mighty Man is He, which opened on Broadway at the Cort Theatre on January 6, 1960, and closed January 9 after five performances.[6]

Edwards also wrote the score for a children’s musical “Who’s Afraid of Mother Goose?” With lyrics by Ruth Batchelor, this one-hour show was broadcast on ABC-TV on October 13, 1967. It starred Maureen O'Hara and featured Peter Gennaro, Frankie Avalon, Nancy Sinatra, Margaret Hamilton, Dick Shawn, Dan Rowan, and Dick Martin.[7]

Popular songs written by Edwards[edit]


Edwards' crowning achievement was, arguably, the musical 1776, for which he wrote the original book, lyrics and music. Peter Stone re-wrote the book. The show depicts the meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, culminating with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It opened at the 46th Street Theatre on March 16, 1969, and ran for 1,217 performances. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical.[8]

Musical numbers[edit]

  1. Overture
  2. "Sit Down, John" – Adams, Congress
  3. "Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve"/"Till Then" – Adams
  4. "Till Then" – Adams, Abigail
  5. "The Lees of Old Virginia" – Lee, Franklin, Adams
  6. "But, Mr. Adams" – Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Sherman, Livingston
  7. "Yours, Yours, Yours" – John, Abigail
  8. "He Plays the Violin" – Martha Jefferson, Franklin, Adams
  9. "Cool, Cool, Considerate Men" – Dickinson, The Conservatives
  10. "Mama Look Sharp" – Courier, McNair, Leather Apron
  11. "The Egg" – Franklin, Adams, Jefferson
  12. "Molasses to Rum" – Rutledge
  13. "Compliments" – Abigail
  14. "Is Anybody There?" – Adams
  15. Finale

Film version[edit]

The musical's 1972 film 1776 retained all of Edwards' songs. "Cool, Cool, Considerate Men" was edited out of the film after its initial reserved-seat road showings. The song – about the right-leaning South facing the left-leaning North – was also left off of the first VHS release. The number was restored for cable TV viewings and DVD release. It is one of the more stirring numbers in the movie.

Personal life[edit]

Edwards was married to Ingrid (Secretan) Edwards, a dancer who was a member of the original Ed Sullivan dancers and danced on Broadway in Sweethearts, Annie Get Your Gun, and Kiss Me, Kate.


The grave of Sherman Edwards

Edwards died of a heart attack in Manhattan at age 61 in 1981 and was interred at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York. He was survived by his wife, Ingrid; his son, Keith; his daughter, Valerie, and his mother, Rae Edwards.[3]


  1. ^ "Creator of Show 1776 Working on New Musical", The News, September 20, 1969. Accessed November 18, 2021, via "He was born in Harlem in the vicinity of 116th Street and Madison Avenue and began his education at the Hecksher Foundation for underprivileged children and attended PS III. Eventually he graduated from Weequahic High School in Newark, then worked his way through New York University by playing in the top bands of the day and often appeared in the 9 a.m. history class in a tuxedo."
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ a b "Sherman Edwards, 61, Composer And Lyricist for '1776,' Is Dead (Published 1981)". The New York Times. April 1, 1981 – via
  4. ^ Wallace, Ken. "He wrote the play courageously and he won with 1776", The Record, May 21, 1972. Accessed November 18, 2021, via "Edwards, who makes his home in Parsippany, with his wife, Ingrid, son, Keith, 15, and daughter, Valerie, 18, sincerely believes that America's forefathers were great men and the Declaration of Independence is 'one of the greatest documents ever conceived by man.'"
  5. ^ "Sherman Edwards, Composer Of 1776", Daily Record, April 1, 1981. Accessed November 18, 2021, via "Parsippany - Sherman Edwards, who conceived, composed, and wrote the lyrics of the Broadway hit 1776, died Monday afternoon of a heart attack in a friend's home In New York City. He was 62, and lived on North Beverwyck Road, Boonton Manor."
  6. ^ "A Mighty Man Is He – Broadway Play – Original | IBDB".
  7. ^ "Musicals on Television: 1966-1969".
  8. ^ "1776". Internet Broadway Database.

External links[edit]