Today is the 96h birthday of Broadway lyricist Sheldon Harnick, who won a Tony Award for Fiddler on the Roof, a Pulitzer Price for Fiorello!, and such other musicals with Jerry Bock as She Loves Me, The Apple Tree, The Rothschilds, Rex (with Richard Richard Rodgers), and the opera Captain Jinks and the Horse Marines -- and much more.
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 when I finally tracked down his address through a mutual friend to send him a copy -- and when I told my mother that I finally 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 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 back in January for her surprise 90th birthday party.) Though they've periodically crossed paths over the many decades, I was able to get them together 13 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.)
But enough of all that. On with the show. Here's a wonderful, hour-long interview with Sheldon Harnick at the Kennedy Center six years ago when he was 90, and you'll see he's vibrant and entertaining.
And here's one of my favorite of his lesser-known songs, "In My Own Lifetime," from The Rothschilds, which starred Hal Linden who won the Tony Award as Best Actor. Harnick writes poetically and richly with the simplicity of almost everyday language, which is his hallmark.
And we'll end our celebration with this video from two years ago -- when Harnick was 94 -- singing absolutely wonderfully one of his classics, "Do You Love Me?" from Fiddler on the Roof with Judy Blazer.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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