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A Film by Michael Kantor


Composers, Lyricists & Writers

Richard Adler and Jerry Ross

This composer, lyricist, and producer had two hit Broadway shows in the ’50s, but has since been unable to produce another one. The son of a concert pianist, Adler was not attracted to classical music, and studied to be a writer at the University of North Carolina before spending three years in the U.S. Navy. After his discharge he went into the advertising business, and occasionally composed songs in his spare time. In the early ’50s he met Jerry Ross (b. Jerold Rosenberg, March 9, 1926, the Bronx, New York, USA, d. November 11, 1955, New York, USA), and they began to write songs together. In 1953, contracted to Frank Loesser’s publishing company Frank Music, they had a hit with “Rags to Riches,” which became a U.S. chart-topper for Tony Bennett. After contributing several numbers to the revue “John Murray Anderson’s Almanac,” Adler and Ross wrote the complete score for “The Pajama Game,” which opened on Broadway in May 1954 and ran for 1,063 performances. Several of the songs became popular outside the show, including “Hernando’s Hideaway,” “Hey There” (a U.S. number 1 for Rosemary Clooney) and “Small Talk.”

After Ross’ death Adler turned his hand to producing.

Richard Adler and Jerry Ross

Key Shows
  • "Damn Yankees"
  • "Kwamina"
  • "The Pajama Game"
  • "Rex"
Related Artists
  • George Abbott
  • Bob Fosse
  • Frank Loesser
  • Hal Prince
  • Richard Rodgers
  • Jerome Robbins
  • Gwen Verdon
Almost exactly one year later, they returned with the highly entertaining baseball musical “Damn Yankees,” which once again was full of lively and tuneful songs such as “Heart,” which became successful for Eddie Fisher and the Four Aces, and “Whatever Lola Wants,” a chart hit for Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Shore. The show was settling in for a run of 1,019 performances when Ross died of leukemia in November 1955. Three years later, “Everybody Loves a Lover,” another Adler-Ross song, which does not appear to have been included in a show or film, became a hit for Doris Day. After Ross’ death Adler turned his hand to producing, but without success: “The Sin of Pat Muldoon,” Richard Rodgers’ “Rex,” and “Music Is” (for which Adler also wrote the music) were major disappointments. In the ’60s he wrote both music and lyrics for “Kwamina” and “A Mother’s Kisses,” but neither took off. His score for “Kwamina,” a show whose theme was a plea for racial tolerance in Africa and starred his then-wife Sally Ann Howes, was regarded as a fine piece of work, and can now be reassessed following the rerelease of the original cast recording by Broadway Angel Records. Adler has also been actively writing for television commercials, and directing business conventions and political rallies.

YOU GOTTA HAVE HEART, Richard Adler with Lee Davis.

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

Photo credits: Photofest