Jule (pronounced JOO-lee) Styne was a brilliant, prolific tunesmith who, over the course of a nearly 75-year long career, composed 2,000 songs, published 1,500 of them, and had somewhere around 200 of them become enormous hits or later song standards. Jule was a stocky, feisty man much loved in showbiz circles for his sputtered, incomplete sentences, his wit, adaptability and showmanship.
With the scores of such Broadway classics as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Peter Pan, Bells Are Ringing, Gypsy and Funny Girl to his credit, composer Jule Styne ranks as one of the undisputed architects of the American musical theatre. Although he was born in London’s East End, Styne’s family moved to the United States in 1912.
Young Julius showed such a talent for the piano that he had performed with the Chicago, St. Louis, and Detroit Symphonies by age 10. He developed his feel for popular music working with the jazz bands of 1920s Chicago, and as vocal coach to such 1930s Hollywood stars as Shirley Temple and Alice Faye.
Teaming with lyricist Sammy Cahn in the 1940s, he created a string of Hit Parade leaders including the Oscar-winning “Three Coins In The Fountain.”
In addition to Sammy Cahn, Styne’s collaborators include Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Stephen Sondheim, Bob Merrill, Leo Robin and E.Y. Harburg, and their combined efforts have produced such showstoppers as “The Party’s Over,” “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “People” and “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.”
The following lyricists collaborated with Jule: Frank Loesser, Sammy Cahn, Leo Robin, E.Y. Harburg, Stephen Sondheim, Susan Birkenhead, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and Bob Merrill.
Jule Styne was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972, the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981, and became a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1990. On the occasion of his 25th anniversary in show business, the following tribute was read into the Congressional Record: “The lives of Americans throughout our land, as well as the lives of people throughout the corners of the world, have been enriched by the artistry and genius of Jule Styne.”
The creator of songs ranging from the joyous “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and “Make Someone Happy” to the heartbreaking melancholy of “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry” to the triumph of “Just in Time” received many deserved honors before his death at age 88.
It would be difficult to conceive of the careers of Broadway’s brightest female stars – Carol Channing as Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Judy Holliday as the daffy telephone operator in Bells Are Ringing, Mary Martin as Peter Pan, Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, or Ethel Merman singing “Rose’s Turn” in Gypsy – without the showstopping songs, so precisely molded to the outstanding talents of each, of Jule Styne.
Born December 31, 1905, London, England
Died September 20, 1994, New York City