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The music of Charles Strouse has touched the life of almost every American in the last half century. There may be no other living composer from America's songbook whose work is as integrated into the popular culture as that of Charles Strouse.
His music has attracted top recording artists such as Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, Harry Connick, Jr., Jay–Z, Louis Armstrong, Nina Simone, and Duke Ellington and his Orchestra.
Strouse has written scores for over 30 stage musicals, including 14 for Broadway. He has also composed scores for five Hollywood films, two orchestral works and an opera. He has been inducted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Theatre Hall of Fame. He is a three–time Tony Award winner, a two–time Emmy Award winner, and his cast recordings have earned him two Grammy Awards. His song "Those Were the Days" launched over 200 episodes of All in the Family and continues to reach new generations of television audiences in syndication. With hundreds of productions licensed annually, his musicals Annie and Bye Bye Birdie are among the most popular of all time–produced by regional, amateur and school groups all over the world.
CHARLES STROUSE, a Broadway legend…
Charles Strouse, a long–standing member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Theater Hall of Fame, is one of America's most successful musical theatre composers. His first Broadway musical, Bye Bye Birdie (1960), was written with his long–time collaborator Lee Adams, and starred Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera and Paul Lynde. It produced hit songs including "Put on a Happy Face," "A Lot of Livin' to Do," and the fan anthem "We Love You Conrad." The show won Strouse a Tony Award and the London Critics Best Foreign Musical Award.
In 1970, Applause, a musical adaptation of All About Eve starring Lauren Bacall, achieved the same honors, earning Strouse his second Tony.
In 1977, Strouse teamed with lyricist Martin Charnin and librettist Thomas Meehan on the Broadway musical Annie. Running for 2,377 performances and yielding countless productions around the world, Strouse's score included "Tomorrow," "It's the Hard–Knock Life," "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile," and "I Don't Need Anything But You." The Broadway phenomenon earned Strouse his third Tony Award.
Strouse has also garnered Tony nominations for his Broadway scores of Golden Boy (1966), an adaptation of the Clifford Odetts classic starring Sammy Davis Jr.; Charlie & Algernon (1980), a musical based on the Daniel Keyes novel Flowers for Algernon; Rags (1986), a collaboration with Stephen Schwartz and Joseph Stein starring opera star Teresa Stratas; and Nick and Nora (1991), a musical based on Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man characters, written with Richard Maltby, Jr. and Arthur Laurents.
Strouse's other musicals on Broadway and/or London's West End include All American (1962), starring Ray Bolger, book by Mel Brooks, direction by Joshua Logan and featuring the popular ballad "Once Upon a Time"; It's A Bird… It's A Plane… It's Superman (1966), a stage adaptation of the comic strip, produced and directed by Hal Prince; I And Albert (1972), the West End musical about Queen Victoria, directed by John Schlesinger; A Broadway Musical (1978); Bring Back Birdie (1981), the sequel to Bye Bye Birdie; and Dance a Little Closer (1983), written with Alan Jay Lerner. Strouse wrote both the music and lyrics for Off–Broadway's Mayor (1985), an adaptation of Ed Koch's book, and teamed again with Martin Charnin to create Annie Warbucks (1993), the stage sequel to Annie.
CHARLE STROUSE, on film & television…
Strouse's film scores include Bonnie & Clyde (1967), for which he received a Grammy nomination for Best Original Film Score, There Was a Crooked Man (1970), with Henry Fonda and Kirk Douglas, The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968), Sidney Lumet's Just Tell Me What You Want, and the animated feature All Dogs Go To Heaven (1989). His two biggest stage hits have also been adapted for the screen. Bye Bye Birdie (1963) starred Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh, Ann Margaret, Maureen Stapleton and Bobby Rydell, and was recently included in Entertainment Weekly's "Top 40 Best High School Movies." Annie, directed by John Houston and starring Carol Burnett, Albert Finney, and Bernadette Peters was one of the top grossing films of 1982.
Strouse is best known to television audiences for his song "Those Were the Days." One of the most popular television themes of all time, Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapelton launched over 200 episodes of All in the Family singing the song from behind their spinet. This concept that was originally devised by series creator Norman Lear as a means of cutting costs, and wound up making television history.
Strouse's other television credits include scores for the television musicals Alice in Wonderland, Lyle, Lyle Crocodile, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible No Good, Very Bad Day, and Annie–A Royal Adventure.
Four of Charles Strouse's Broadway musicals have been produced for television. Applause (1973) starred Lauren Bacall and Penny Fuller (reprising their Broadway roles), and featured Larry Hagman as Bacall's love interest. It's a Bird… It's a Plane… It's Superman aired in 1975, and featured Lesley Ann Warren, Loretta Switt and David Wayne. Bye Bye Birdie aired in 1995, and starred Jason Alexander, Vanessa Williams, George Wendt and Tyne Daly. The production won Strouse an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music for the song "Let's Settle Down." Directed by Oscar nominee Rob Marshall, Annie aired on ABC's The Wonderful World of Disney in 1999, and starred Kathy Bates, Victor Garber, Audra McDonald, Kristen Chenoweth, and Alan Cumming. Disney's production of Annie won Strouse two more Emmys and a Peabody Award, and still ranks as the highest rated television musical in Nielsen history.
CHARLES STROUSE, topping the pop charts…
Strouse's songs have been heard on the radio throughout his career and have run the gamut from girl–band pop to hip–hop. Charles Strouse first hit the pop charts with "Born Too Late," a 1958 pop song written with Fred Tobias and introduced by The Poni–Tails. It reached number one on the Billboard chart and is still heard on many oldies stations today.
In the 1960's, "We Love You Conrad" from Bye Bye Birdie made the charts in the U.K. when The Carefrees recorded it as "We Love You Beatles."
The quadruple platinum album title song by Jay–Z, "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)" from Annie, won the 1999 Grammy for Best Rap Album, charted for more than a year and won the Billboard 1998 R&B Album of the Year Award. It was also honored with ASCAP's Rhythm and Soul Music Award for Best Rap Album.
CHARLES STROUSE, his orchestral and classical works…
Along with Strouse's work in theatre, film, and television, his credits also include chamber and orchestral works, and opera.
In 1982, Strouse wrote the music, book and lyrics for Nightingale, an opera based on the Hans Christian Andersen story. It opened in London at the Lyric Hammersmith, with a cast including Sarah Brightman in the leading role.
"Concerto America," composed in 2002 to commemorate 9/11 and the spirit of New York City, received its world premiere from the Boston Pops Orchestra on June 30, 2002, with pianist Jeffrey Biegel as soloist.
"On This Day," an anthem written for the White House Commission on Remembrance, was performed on
Memorial Day, May 26, 2003, in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Virginia for an audience which included the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
CHARLES STROUSE, the early years…
Charles Strouse was born in New York City on June 7, 1928. He began taking piano lessons at the age of ten, and at the age of 15 entered the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. After graduating in 1947, he won two scholarships to Tanglewood, where he studied under Aaron Copland. In the time following, he had various music–related jobs such as scoring and composing music for Twentieth Century–Fox newsreels, playing piano for the character Rosalie on television's The Goldbergs, and writing dance music for various mediums.
He next spent time in Paris studying with Nadia Boulanger, and returned to the United States to study with Copland and David Diamond. In 1949, he met lyricist Lee Adams at a party, and a long and successful musical partnership was born. The duo began contributing songs to revues at the Green Mansions summer resort in the Adirondacks. This experience led to their writing tunes for numerous revues, including Catch a Star (1955), Shoestring Revue (1956), The Littlest Revue (1956) and Kaleidoscope (1957), as well as special materials for performers such as Kaye Ballard, Carol Burnett, Jane Morgan, and Dick Shawn.
In 1958, producer Edward Padula was auditioning writing teams for a new musical about United States teenagers. Adams and Strouse won in the third tryout round and were hired at one hundred dollars a month. Within a year, they wrote over 50 possible songs for the show, and performed at over 75 auditions for financial backers. The show, ultimately titled Bye Bye Birdie, opened on Broadway in 1960. It was an enormous success, and went on to win six Tony Awards including one for Best Musical of the Year. Strouse and Adams had won a Tony their first time out, in a season of legendary musical scores–including Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's Camelot, Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green's Do–Re–Mi, Meredith Wilson's The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's Tenderloin. Charles Strouse had arrived.
CHARLES STROUSE, looking forward…
On June 7, 2008 Charles Strouse turned 80, but as the song goes, he's "got a lotta livin' to do." Strouse has plenty of new projects on the horizon including revivals of some of his popular favorites, concert performances, the release of an autobiography and new works to debut including an adaptation of the Paddy Chayevsky film Marty starring John C. Reilly, a musical version of The Night They Raided Minsky's, and an adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy.