Gone but never forgotten — Jerry Herman was born Gerald Sheldon Herman on July 10, 1931 in New York, NY and raised in Jersey City. His parents ran a children’s summer camp in the Catskills and he taught himself the piano. He noted that when he was born, his mother had a view of Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre marquee from her hospital bed.
After graduating from the University of Miami, Herman headed back to New York, writing and playing piano in a jazz club. He made his Broadway debut in 1960 contributing songs to the review FROM A TO Z — alongside material by Fred Ebb and Woody Allen — and the next year tackled the entire score to a musical about the founding of the state of Israel, MILK AND HONEY. It earned him his first Tony nomination.
HELLO, DOLLY! starring Carol Channing opened in 1964 and ran for 2,844 performances, becoming Broadway’s longest-running musical at the time. It won 10 Tonys and has been revived many times, most recently in 2017 with Bette Midler in the title role. The film version in 1969 starred Barbra Streisand.
MAME followed in 1966, starring Angela Lansbury, and went on to run for over 1,500 performances. She handed him his Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2009, saying he created songs like him: “bouncy, buoyant and optimistic.” The film version in 1974 starred Lucille Ball.
In 1983 he had another hit with LA CAGE AUX FOLLES a sweetly radical musical of its age, decades before the fight for marriage equality. It was a lavish adaptation of the successful French film about two gay men who own a splashy, drag nightclub on the Riviera. It contained the gay anthem “I Am What I Am” and ran for some 1,760 performances.
Three of his shows, DEAR WORLD, THE GRAND TOUR and MACK AND MABEL failed on Broadway.
He was inducted into the American Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1982, awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Live Theatre at 7095 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 1, 1994, and named a Kennedy Center honoree in 2010.
He died aged 88 on December 26, 2019 of pulmonary complications in Miami, where he had been living with his partner, real estate broker Terry Marler.
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