Richard Adler (August 3, 1921 – June 21, 2012) was an American lyricist, composer and producer of several Broadway shows who was born in New York City, NY, on August 3, 1921, the son of Elsa Adrienne (née Richard) and Clarence Adler. His mother was a “debutante” from Mobile, AL. Adler had a musical upbringing, his father being a famous concert pianist. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and served in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II. After his Navy service he began his career as a lyricist, teaming up with Jerry Ross in 1950. As a duo they worked in tandem, both taking credit for lyrics and music.
After establishing their partnership, Adler and Ross quickly became protégés of composer/lyricist/publisher Frank Loesser. Their first notable composition was the song “Rags to Riches,” 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 the Broadway Theater with John Murray Anderson’s Almanac, a revue for which they provided most of the songs. 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 #9; Archie Bleyer took “Hernando’s Hideaway” to #2; and Rosemary Clooney’s recording of “Hey There” made it to #1.
Opening almost exactly a year later, their next vehicle, Damn Yankees replicated the awards and success of the earlier show. Cross-over hits from the show were “Heart”, recorded by Eddie Fisher and “Whatever Lola Wants”, by Sarah Vaughan. 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 #1. However, their partnership was cut short when Ross died of a lung ailment in November of 1955, aged 29. 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. He wrote the musical Olympus 7-0000 for the show ABC Stage 67. 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. Adler’s last original Broadway musical was 1976’s Music Is (lyrics by Will Holt, music by Adler) which was based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. 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. Adler also composed several symphonic and ballet pieces, including one to celebrate the Statue of Liberty’s centennial. He died aged 90 on June 21, 2012, at his home in Southampton, NY.
My collection includes the following works by Adler:
The Lady Remembers: The Statue of Liberty Suite (1985).