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'Damn Yankees' Tony-winning composer Richard Adler dies at 90

June 22, 2012|By Jamie Wetherbe
  • Richard Adler, who co-wrote the songs for the hit musicals "The Pajama Game" and "Damn Yankees," died Thursday.
Richard Adler, who co-wrote the songs for the hit musicals "The Pajama… (Tina Fineberg / Associated…)

Composer-lyricist Richard Adler, who won Tony Awards for co-writing the songs to the hit musicals “The Pajama Game” and “Damn Yankees," died Thursday at his home in Southampton, N.Y. He was 90.

Adler wrote pop songs as well, including "Rags to Riches" and "Hey There," which were No. 1 hits for Tony Bennett and Rosemary Clooney, respectively. The composer also staged shows for several Presidents, including the 1962 birthday party where a breathy Marilyn Monroe sang for John F. Kennedy.

Adler was born in New York City to a concert pianist and had a musical upbringing. After a tour in the Navy, he joined writing partner Jerry Ross, and under the wing of Broadway great Frank Loesser, the pair wrote three Broadway successes in as many years, starting in 1953 with "John Murray Anderson's Almanac." (The partnership was cut short in 1955 when Ross died from a lung infection.)

The romantic comedy “The Pajama Game," which first premiered on Broadway in 1954 starring Harry Belafonte and went on to 1,063 performances, was revived in 2006 with Harry Connick Jr. and Kelli O'Hara in the lead roles.

The Faust legend-meets-baseball "Damn Yankees" and its hits "Heart" and "Whatever Lola Wants," premiered in 1955 starring Ray Walston and Gwen Verdon. Its 1994 Broadway revival starred Victor Garber and Bebe Neuwirth.

After Ross' death, Adler continued to compose solo and with other partners, but never replicated his earlier success. Adler's most recent Broadway effort, "Music Is," the 1976 adaptation of "Twelfth Night," closed after eight shows. Some of Ross and Adler's songs made their way back to Broadway in the 2000 dance revue "Fosse."

Adler is survived by his wife, actress-singer Susan A. Ivory, and three of his four children.

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