I've told this story before, but on his 95th birthday it bears repeating. I interviewed him years ago when I was a student at Northwestern, and he returned to campus as Homecoming Grand Marshall. I made a radio documentary from it and two decades later after trying fruitlessly I finally tracked down his address through a mutual friend to send him a copy -- and when I told my mother that I had at last found someone who knew where Harnick lived, she said, "Oh, you mean, Aunt Joan?" I was floored. I never had any idea that they grew up together and even went to college together. Though. no, she didn't have her address. When I sent him the radio documentary though and explained my further connection, he sent a handwritten note back, and the first line was, "OH, MY GOD!!! JOAN SERED!!! (which was her maiden name. And yes, this is the Aunt Joan who I wrote about here last year for her surprise 90th birthday party.) Though he and my aunt had periodically crossed paths over the many decades, I was able to get them together eight years ago when we all saw a production of his show She Loves Me at the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois. (And yes, this was the production I've written about several times that starred Jessie Mueller before she left for Broadway and won a Tony Award for starring in the musical Beautiful.) We've stayed email buddies, as well, over the years, and that makes his birthday today all the more enjoyable for me.
I can't pick "A Favorite" Harnick song, but I think this video will serve nicely. I'm not sure what year it's from, but it might be 2015 when Harnick was 91. It's at a tribute evening for Barbara Cook, who had starred in the musical Harnick and Bock wrote, She Loves Me. And it's parody lyrics he's written -- and sings to Cook -- to the tune of the title song. The words and rhymes are wonderful.
And we'll end with this highly-deserved gme. It's Sheldon Harnick accepting a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre in 2016. It's a short, but charming speech. My only question is why did they wait until 2016 when the legendary lyricist who won two Best Musical Tony Awards for Fiddler on the Roof and Fiorello! (the latter which became only the third musical to win the Pulitzer Prize), as well as She Loves Me and The Apple Tree, was 92 years old.