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|Birth name||Sherman Edwards|
|Born||April 4, 1919|
|Origin||New York City, U.S.A.|
|Died||March 30, 1981 (aged 61)|
Manhattan, New York
Edwards was born in New York City and was raised in the Weequahic section of Newark, New Jersey, where he attended Weequahic High School. He lived in Parsippany, New Jersey from 1919-1981. He attended New York University, where he majored in history. 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.
Early music career
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. 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 well known 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.
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. This began the evolution of 1776. 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.
Popular songs written by Edwards
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- "Broken Hearted Melody" (words by Hal David), a 1959 hit for Sarah Vaughan
- "Dungaree Doll" (words by Ben Raleigh), a 1955 hit for Eddie Fisher
- "Flaming Star" (words by Sid Wayne), the theme song for the 1960 Elvis Presley film of the same name
- "The Sounds of Summer" (words by Sid Wayne), recorded by the Harry Simeone Chorale
- "Johnny Get Angry" (words by Hal David), a 1962 hit for Joanie Sommers
- "Wonderful, Wonderful" (words by Ben Raleigh), a 1957 success for Johnny Mathis
- "See You In September" (words by Sid Wayne), a 1959 hit for The Tempos and 1966 hit for The Happenings.
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.
- "Sit Down, John" – Adams, Congress
- "Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve"/"Till Then" – Adams
- "Till Then" – Adams, Abigail
- "The Lees of Old Virginia" – Lee, Franklin, Adams
- "But, Mr. Adams" – Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Sherman, Livingston
- "Yours, Yours, Yours" – John, Abigail
- "He Plays the Violin" – Martha Jefferson, Franklin, Adams
- "Cool, Cool, Considerate Men" – Dickinson, The Conservatives
- "Mama Look Sharp" – Courier, McNair, Leather Apron
- "The Egg" – Franklin, Adams, Jefferson
- "Molasses to Rum" – Rutledge
- "Compliments" – Abigail
- "Is Anybody There?" – Adams
The musical's 1972 film version retained all of Edwards' songs from the show except for "Cool, Cool, Considerate Men," which was cut from the movie for its depiction of Revolutionary War–era conservatives as power-hungry wheedlers focused on maintaining wealth. According to Jack L. Warner, the film's producer and a friend of then-U.S. President Richard Nixon, Nixon pressured him to cut the song because he apparently saw it as an insult to the conservatives of his time. It suggested that the conservatives were hindering American Independence as they danced a minuet singing the song that included the stanza,
Come ye cool, cool considerate set
We'll dance together to the same minuet
To the right, ever to the right
Never to the left, forever to the right.
Edwards died of a heart attack in Manhattan at age 61 in 1981 and was interred at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, NY. He was survived by his wife, Ingrid; his son, Keith; his daughter, Valerie, and his mother, Rae Edwards.
- "Sherman Edwards, 61, Composer And Lyricist for '1776,' Is Dead," The New York Times, April 1, 1981
- A Mighty Man is He at the Internet Broadway Database
- 1776 at the Internet Broadway Database
- 1776 at the Internet Movie Database
- Sherman Edwards obituary, The New York Times, April 1, 1981