Stephen Sondheim

Composer, lyricist, and writer Stephen Sondheim – born March 22, 1930, in New York City, new York - was an iconic figure in musical theater since the 1950s. A Broadway legend, he was famous for his complex musicality, meticulous attention to rhyme and mordant sense of humor. He has won many Tony, Grammy and Olivier Awards, an Academy Award and a Pulitzer, and the Kennedy Centre Honors. His musicals have been revived several times and his songs recorded by an array of major artists. He wrote television shows and movie scripts and successful memoirs. Sondheim spent his teenage years in Doylestown, Pennsylvania after his parents divorced. There, he met lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, who took him under his wing, and he worked as an assistant on the 1947 show Allegro, which Hammerstein wrote with Richard Rodgers. He studied music at Williams College with composer Milton Babbitt, and in the early 1950s, he moved to Los Angeles, California where he contributed scripts for the television series Topper and Rendezvous. Back in New York in 1956, he wrote an underscore for a play after meeting composer Leonard Bernstein and choreographer Jerome Robbins who needed a lyricist. The result was the hit show West Side Story and when it became a film in 1962, the soundtrack became the longest running Number 1 album on the Billboard chart with 54 weeks on top. Sondheim wrote the lyrics for composer Jule Styne's hit show Gypsy (1959) and with A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum (1962), he began his career of writing words and music for all his musicals. The show ran for almost one thousand performances and was awarded Best Musical at the Tony Awards. Sondheim went on to achieve similar successes with his future shows, including Gypsy, Passion, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and Into the Woods. Many of his songs have been featured in a great many TV documentaries and series. He wrote five songs for Madonna in Warren Beatty's 1990 comic hero film Dick Tracy and one of them, “Sooner Or Later (I Always Get My Man)”, won the Academy Award for Best Song. Besides many music awards, Stephen Sondheim was given the US Presidential Medal of Freedom and the PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Award. In 2008, a CD boxset of 82 recordings of his songs was released featuring a huge cast of artists including Angela Lansbury, Nathan Lane, Liza Minnelli, Bernadette Peters, Mandy Patinkin and Mel Tormé. Just a few weeks before the release of director Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, Stephen Sondheim died on November 26, 2021, at the age of 91.

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Stations Featuring Stephen Sondheim

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