Jerry Herman receives Kenny Center Honors in 2010
Photo: Paul Morigi/WireImage/Getty Images
Iconic Broadway Composer Jerry Herman Has Passed Away
Legendary GRAMMY- and Tony-winning Broadway composer Jerry Herman passed away on Dec. 26 at age 88, The Associated Press reports. He was beloved and celebrated for his joyful, upbeat show tunes written for "Hello, Dolly!," "Mame," the English adaptation of "La Cage aux Folles" and more.
Herman's goddaughter Jane Dorian confirmed his passing with AP today. He died of pulmonary complications in Miami, where he was living with his partner Terry Marler.
Herman, who was born in New York in 1931 and raised in Jersey City, had a love of piano and musicals from a young age. Back in 1996, he told the AP that after his parents took him to "Annie Get Your Gun" on Broadway as a child he set his dreams on writing musicals.
"I thought what a gift this man has given a stranger. I wanted to give that gift to other people. That was my great inspiration, that night," he said of seeing his first Broadway musical.
After graduating from the University of Miami, he moved back East to New York, later making his Broadway debut in 1960, with songs he contributed to the musical revue "From A to Z." In 1961, he scored "Milk and Honey," a musical about the founding of Israel, which earned him his first Tony and GRAMMY nominations. Herman's first GRAMMY nod came at the 4th GRAMMY Awards for Best Original Cast Show Album for the music from play.
Just three years later, Herman, who wrote the music and lyrics, and Michael Stewart, who wrote the play adaptation from Thorton Wilder's novel "The Matchmaker," debuted "Hello, Dolly!" on Broadway. According to AP, at the time, it became the longest-running Broadway musical with a 2,844-performance run.
The beloved play originally starred Carol Channing and saw many revivals over the years, most recently starring Bette Midler in 2017. The play won 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score in 1964 and was nominated for Best Score From An Original Cast Show Album at the 7th GRAMMY Awards.
Additionally, in 1964, jazz legend Louis Armstrong released an emotive rendition of the title number from the play to help promote it. Armstrong's single "Hello, Dolly!" won him Best Male Vocal Performance at the 7th GRAMMY Awards and won Herman Song Of The Year, as the songwriter. It was also nominated for Record Of The Year. Both the Armstrong version of the song and the original cast recording were inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame, in 2001 and 2002, respectively.
Just two years later, at the 9th GRAMMY Awards, Herman would take home his second golden gramophone, for Best Score From An Original Cast Show for his second musical, "Mame." It starred Angela Lansbury and also saw a long run, with over 1,500 performances. According to the AP, in 2009, Lansbury presented Herman with his Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement, saying he created songs just like himself—"bouncy, buoyant and optimistic."
His 1983, he released one of his other classic musicals along with playwright Harvey Fierstein, an adaptation of " La Cage aux Folles," from the 1973 French play of the same name. It broke barriers for queer representation on Broadway as one of the first whose story is centered around a gay couple. You may know the story from the classic 1996 movie "The Birdcage" starring Robin Williams, which was adapted from the French movie based on the original play.
With it, the late composer not only paved the way for future queer Broadway triumphs, but also won several Tonys in 1984, including Best Original Score and Best Musical, as well as another GRAMMY nomination for Best Cast Show Album. In 2006, his lifetime of work was recognized with Kennedy Center Honors.
He is survived by his partner and two goddaughters—Dorian and her daughter Sarah Haspel. Dorian told the AP his songs "are always on our lips and in our hearts."