Richard Rodgers is known to most people as just Rodgers as in Rodgers and Hammerstein and Rodgers and Hart. Inspired by the words of his legendary lyricist partners, Rodgers scored the music for many of Broadway's biggest musical hits--Carousel
, The Sound of Music
, The Boys from Syracuse
--to name just a few. What this biography makes clear is that it was a far from simple man who composed the simple, infectious melodies that have kept generations of musical theatergoers humming long after the curtain closes. As a small child Rodgers had a knack for melody making and by the age of 17 heard his first song reverberate against the walls of Broadway. But his light, lilting melodies belied an often dark and brooding soul, a man who closed himself off even from those to whom he was closest. Oscar Hammerstein once remarked: "We've worked together all these years and I don't really know him."
Richard Rodgers is clearly a labor of love. Author William Hyland spent the majority of his professional life working at the CIA, the State Department, and the White House and later edited Foreign Affairs. The book reverentially analyzes Rodgers's evolutionary musical style and his contribution to American culture, yet Hyland seems loathe to broach subjects that might tarnish Rodgers's image--the moody, at times clinically depressed, difficult to work with Rodgers is assiduously kept in the wings. Still, the book offers insight into the creative process and is a pleasurable stroll for fans of musical theater.
From Publishers Weekly
Richard Rodgers "became extraordinarily successful in his work, enjoyed a privileged life, and shared two Pulitzer Prizes. He was also unhappy and depressed much of the time," says Hyland (The Song Is Ended: Songwriters and American Music, 1900-1950) in the preface to his thoroughly researched, if rather ploddingly explicatory, biography. Born in 1902 into a well-to-do New York Jewish family, Rodgers was musically gifted and gravitated to the theater, attending the "subway circuit" of successful Broadway shows at West Side theaters. There he heard Jerome Kern and, like George Gershwin, was inspired to write songs for Broadway. Fate seemed to agree with his career choice, throwing him into contact with his two greatest collaborators very early: 1919 saw Rodgers's first collaborative efforts with both Oscar Hammerstein and Lorenz Hart. Although charming (particularly with women) and thoroughly professional, Rodgers did suffer from bouts of depression and occasional alcoholism and he was thought by some to be distant and even difficult. After more than two decades with Hart, Rodgers severed their relationship and turned to Hammerstein, with whom he would write Oklahoma!, South Pacific and The Sound of Music, among others. Examining these two great teams as well as Rodgers collaborations with Sheldon Harnick, Martin Charnin and Stephen Sondheim, Hyland provides his most valuable insights, showing how teams draw on each other's strengths to create great work, but also how often unrealized weaknesses undermine a partnership. 17 b&w photos.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.