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A Film by Michael Kantor


Composers, Lyricists & Writers

Lee Adams

Lee Adams

Born: August 14, 1924
Key Shows
  • "All American"
  • "Applause"
  • "Bye Bye Birdie"
  • "Golden Boy"
Related Artists
  • Ray Bolger
  • Jerry Herman
  • Chita Rivera
  • Charles Strouse
A notable lyricist and librettist for the musical theater, after studying at Ohio State University and at Columbia University’s Pulitzer School of Journalism in New York, Adams worked for a time in the newspaper and magazine business before meeting composer Charles Strouse in 1949. During the ’50s the new team wrote material for a great many summer resort revues, and contributed to the New York production “Shoestring ’57.” In 1960 they wrote the complete score for “Bye Bye Birdie,” which ran for 607 performances and starred Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera. Two years later, their “All American” could only manage 80 performances, although it contained the lovely “Once Upon a Time,” which was introduced by Ray Bolger and Eileen Herlie. After collaborating with Jerry Herman on just one song – “Before the Parade Passes By” — for his smash hit, “Hello, Dolly!” (1964), Adams and Strouse endured mixed fortunes during the next few years. “Golden Boy,” starring Sammy Davis Jr. and Billy Daniels, ran for 569 performances, “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman” could only manage 129, but “Applause” (1970), a vehicle for the Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall, gave the songwriters their second hit and stayed around for over two years.

Adams worked for a time in the newspaper and magazine business.

In the ’70s and ’80s, it was downhill all the way for Adams and Strouse, although the latter was more successful with other collaborators. “I and Albert” was dismissed by London audiences after only three months, “A Broadway Musical” gave just one performance at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in New York in 1978, and an attempt to cash in on a previous success with “Bring Back Birdie” was given the bird and folded after four nights. Adams turned to Mitch Leigh, the composer of “Man of La Mancha,” a show that had run for well over 2,000 performances in the ’60s, but their attempt to musicalize a biography of the legendary producer Mike Todd, which they called “Mike,” closed during its pre-Broadway tryout in 1988. Not to be outdone, five years later they managed to stage it in New York under the title of “Ain’t Broadway Grand,” but it only ran for 25 performances. Lee Adams was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1989.

Source: Biographical information provided by MUZE. Excerpted from the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF POPULAR MUSIC, edited by Colin Larkin. © 2004 MUZE UK Ltd.