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Loesser, Frank

Born: 1910 AD
Died: 1969 AD
Nationality: American
Categories: Composers, Songwriter

1910 – He was born on the 29th day of June of this year in New York City. He never studied music formally, although he could not help coming under its influence in his childhood. His father was a distinguished German-born teacher of classical piano and his older brother, Arthur, was a renowned concert pianist.


1914 – He wrote his first song “The May Party” at the age 4. He refused to study classical music. His interest was in pop music, which his father disdained. Therefore, he taught himself, first the harmonica, then the piano in his early teens. He attended Townsend Harris High School and New York’s City College, which he dropped out of during the Depression, and supported himself with an array of jobs.


1931 – He teamed up with William Schuman, who later became a serious composer and President of Juilliard. In this year, they wrote "In Love with a Memory of You," his first published lyric.


1939 – He made his composing debut with the music (and lyric) for the title song of the Paramount film, Seventeen. War intervened, and he was assigned to Special Services, providing lyrics for camp shows with such composers as Harold Rome and Alex North.


1942 – He wrote, "Praise the Lord, and Pass the Ammunition" during World War II. Formerly a successful lyricist in collaboration with other composers, this was the first song for which Loesser composed the melody in addition to the lyric.


1948 – He returned to Hollywood after the war, but struggling young producers Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin convinced him to migrate back east and create a score for their projected Broadway musical of Charley’s Aunt, called Where’s Charley? It opened October 11 of this year, and became Frank’s first smash hit, giving star Ray Bolger his greatest stage success.


1950 – He followed that show with one of the great masterworks of American theatre, Guys and Dolls, which opened on the 24th of November of this year, and quickly became a theatrical landmark, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical. His score was lush with hits, including "A Bushel and a Peck," "I’ve Never Been in Love Before," "Luck Be a Lady," "I’ll Know" and "Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat."


1956 – He then took four years to write not only the score, but also the book for his next show, which he called an "extended musical comedy," The Most Happy Fella. Whereas such opera-like musicals as Porgy and Bess and Street Scene were unsuccessful in their time, Frank’s Napa Valley show with the hit songs "Standing on the Corner" and "Big D" opened May 3, 1956, and ran two years. It was the first show recorded in its entirety by Columbia Records.


1961 – He bounced back with “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying”, which won the Pulitzer Prize and seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It ran four years on Broadway, with "I Believe in You" and "Brotherhood of Man" becoming enormous hits from that score.
In the midst of all this stage work, Frank returned to Hollywood and created one of his best loved scores for the film Hans Christian Andersen (1952), which featured such songs as "Wonderful Copenhagen," "Anywhere I Wander," "The Inch Worm" and "Thumbelina," which was nominated for an Academy Award.


1969 – He died of lung cancer at age 59 on the 26th of July of this year in New York City.


1974 – His widow, Jo Sullivan, produced a long running, hit stage version called Hans Andersen, starring Tommy Steele, at the Palladium in London.


1976 – Frank Music was acquired by CBS, and today is part of Paul McCartney’s music publishing company, MPL Communications.


1997 – Jo Sullivan Loesser created Frank Loesser Enterprises for the management of the Frank Loesser catalogue and archives and the development of new Loesser projects.


1999 – The U.S. Postal Service honored Frank Loesser with a postage stamp bearing his likeness.