Sheldon Harnick biography
At Writers Theatre: She Loves Me
Sheldon Harnick was born in Chicago on April 30, 1924. He attended Portage Park Grammar School 1930-1938 and started studying violin while in grammar school. He attended Carl Schurz High School 1938-1942, and continued violin studies and music theory at the Boguslawski Musical College. During his junior and senior years at Schurz, Harnick began to wrote parodies, sketches and some original songs with collaborator Stanley Orzey. In 1943 he was drafted for World War II and honorably discharged in 1946 (Rank: T-4). While stationed at Robins Field, Georgia, he worked as a performer and wrote songs for shows put on by the volunteer Special Service Group. Harnick was a technician in the Signal Corps, attached to the Air Force; where he created entertainment on his own time. He also, entered Yank Magazine’s parody contest and was one of five 2nd prize winners.
After his discharge from the Army, he worked as a violinist in Bud Whalen’s dance band around Chicago. Harnick then enrolled at Northwestern University School of Music 1946-1949, where he earned a Bachelor of Music Degree, majoring in violin. He contributed to Northwestern’s annual student revue, the Waa-Mu Show: 1947-53. After graduation, he worked with Henry Brandon's dance orchestra around Chicago and the Midwest. When the band had to be trimmed in order to continue to book engagements, Harnick was one of several musicians let go. Hw then worked with Xaviar Cugat’s orchestra on a theater date in Minneapolis but was fired after the first show.
Harnick went to New York in 1950 to try to be a theatrical song writer. His first song in a Broadway show was "The Boston Beguine" in New Faces of 1952. Over the next few years he contributed songs to the following On and Off-Broadway revues with music written by Harnick, David Baker or Lloyd B. Norlin: “Two’s Company”, “John Murray Anderson’s ‘Almanac’”, “The Shoestring Revue”, “Shoestring ‘57”, “Kaleidoscope”, “The Littlest Revue”, “Vintage ‘60”. He also had songs in several Julius Monk Cabaret shows.
Harnick wrote the lyrics for first musical, Horatio (Book by Ira Wallach, Music by David Baker), produced at Margo Jone’s theater in Dallas in 1954. This show was later produced Off-Broadway in 1961 under the title Smiling the Boy Fell Dead. Harnick worked on the theater staff of a summer resort, Green Mansions, for the full summer season in 1955, half the season of 1956 and several weeks in 1957. He receieved a call to write lyrics, anonymously, on The Amazing Adele in 1956, but it was never produced on Broadway and Shangri-La in 1956. He then wrote the lyrics for Portofino in 1958.
Harnick met Jerry Block in 1956 and proceeded to collaborate on the following productions: The Body Beautiful (1958), Ford Tractor Show (Closed-circuit TV Industrial Show, 1959), Fiorello (1959), Tenderloin (1960), Man in the Moon (1963) for the Bil Baird Marionettes, She Loves Me (1963), To Broadway with Love (1964) (For New York Fair), Fiddler on the Roof (1964), Baker Street (Contributed several songs anonymously: 1965), The Apple Tree (1966), The Canterville Ghost (1966) (TV Musical), The Rothschilds (1970). They also wrote material for the then Mayor of New York, John V. Lindsay, for his appearances before the Press Club Show Inner Circle 1966 and 1970-1973. From 1958 to 1959, he worked on Industrial Shows for firms like Buick, Esso Gas, Nabisco, Columbia Phonograph, Milliken, and worked on one Ballantine Beer TV Commercial with Jerry Bock in 1965.
In 1973 Harnick worked with Mary Rodgers on Pinocchio (1973) for the Bil Baird Maropnettes and wrote the song "William's Doll" for Mario Thomas's Television Special: Free to Be You and Me (1974). Harnick wrote with Joe Raposo the theme song for the television series written by Alan Alda: We'll Get By (1974), Alice in Wonderland (1975) for the Bil Baird Marionettes, Sutter's Gold a Cantana, the premiere for Boston Symphony Orchestra (1980) and A Wonderful Life first produced at the University of Michigan (1986), the Stock and Amateur rights are now handled by the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization. Collaborating with Michelle Legrand, they worked on: A Song for a King an unpoduced film, A Christmas Carol the first production was produced as a tour in 1981, the Stock and Amateur production rights are now handled by the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization and Aaron's Magic Village an animated film released in the United States in 1997. The same film was released in Europe as The World is One Big Chelm in 1955.
In 1979, Harnick wrote Frustration, a 'mini-opera' in one-act, one of several short comedic operas included in a presentation called Fantasies Take Flight (premiere Encompass Theatre, New York City). Working with Jack Beeson, Harnick wrote the following operas: Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines originally recorded by RCA, now available on Desto Records (premiere Kansas City Lyric Theatre in 1975), Dr. Heidegger's Foundation of Youth recorded by CRI) premiere National Arts Club, New York City in 1978) and Cyrano (premiere Theater Hagen in Germany, 1994). Thomas Z. Shepard and Harnick collaborated on the following operas: Love in Two Countries and comprising two one-act operas That Pig of a Molette & Question of Faith (premiere Musical Theatre Works, Theatre at St. Peter's Church, New York City in 1991). Commissioned by the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Harnick and Henry Mollicone wrote Coyote Tales (premeiere Lyric Opera of Kansas City in 1998). Harnick has adapted or translated the following works: Harnick has adapted or translated the following works: Stravinsky’s L'Histore Du Soldat (world premiere Chamber Symphony of Philadelphia, with Bil Baird’s Marionettes in 1967), now considered the “official American translation,” Ravel’s L’enfant Et Les Sortileges (premiere The Manhattan Music School in 1971), Mozart’s L’oca Del Cairo (premiere Lyric Opera of Kansas City in 1982), Lehar’s The Merry Widow (premiere San Diego Opera Company, featuring Beverly Sills in 1977), Bizet’s Carmen, commissioned by Houston Grand Opera Company (premiere Houston Grand Opera Company in 1981), an abbreviated version of the Houston Grand Opera Company translation, slightly revised, became the English version of Peter Brook’s La Tragedie De Carmen (premiere Vivian Beaumont Theatre in New York City in 1984), Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne (seven of those songs were first performed in a concert given by Marni Nixon in New York City in 1982), Bach Aria Group commissioned J.S. Bach works The Contest Between Phoebus and Pan a Cantata in 1988, The Appeasement of Aeolus a Cantata in 1990 (premiere Bach Aria Group, New York), an aria from Verdi’s Rigoletto, Questa o Quella translated for Placido Domingo to perform on his television special in 1985, Elgie composed by Charles Ives, the translation used as the final song in Jerome Robbins ballet Ives Songs (premiere New York State Theatre in 1988).
Harnick translated six of the dozen songs from Ghetto: Translations of Yiddish Songs and Jim Friedman translated the other six songs for use in Ghetto by Joshua Sobol (premiere Mark Taper Forum in 1986) and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg composed by Michael Legrand, text by Jacques Demy (premiere New York Shakespeare Festival Theatre in 1979). In 1993 he collaborated with Peter Reeves at the Neil Simon Theater translating A Friend Has Gone Away lyrics by Jean Drejac and he wrote some lyrics for Cyrano, The Musical composed by Ad van Dijk with text by Koen van Dijk. The following commissions have not yet been produced: Renard (commissioned by PBS), L'Amour Fantome composed by Michael Legrand, text by Didier van Cauwelaert, L'Oca Del Cairo (commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera’s Mini-Met), The Heiress composed by Jean-Michel Damase, translated from the French libretto by L. Ducreux based on the Ruth and Augustus Goetz play, which was based on Henry James’s novel Washington Square (not yet produced in English), Pailleron’s Le Monde Ou L'On S'Ennuie and Le Voyage De Monsieur Perrichon composed by Eugene Labiche and Edouard Martin. Miscellaneous film and television credits include: theme music and lyrics for Dumont Cavalcade of Stars a weekly television variety show starring Jackie Gleason (1952), the theme for The Heartbreak Kid (1972), the theme for Cy Coleman (1972), the theme for Blame it on Rio, music for Cy Coleman and song I Must Be Doing Something Right (1984), the theme for the television film Marriage is Alive and Well, music for Fred Karlin (1980), theme for Northwestern University Television Special The Way They Were, music for Larry Grossman and from that project the song In The Beginning was nominated for an Emmy Award (1981), new lyrics for Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever (his version was entitled The Man With the Sign) for the Norman Lear Television Special I Love Liberty (1982), adapted the opening number from A Chorus Line for use in the Academy Award telecast (1988), songs for the HBO animated film The Tale of Peter Rabbit and music for Stephen Lawrence (1991). Miscellaneous musical credits include REX music by Richard Rodgers (1976), The Phantom Tollbooth music by Arnold Black, book was written by Harnick and Norton Juster (world premiere Harwich Junior Theatre in 2002), he wrote the book, lyrics and music for Dragons based on the Russian play The Dragon by Yevgeny Schwarz (Northwestern University in 1984) and Good Company: Songs That Made It From Shows That Didn't (world premiere Berkshire Theatre Festival in 1997). Harnick has received awards for the following projects Fiorello! (Tony Award, Pulitzer Prize and New York Drama Critics Circle Award), She Loves Me (Grammy Award), Fiddler on the Roof (Tony Award, New York Drama Critics Circle Award, Newspaper Guild of New York Page One Award), The Merry Widow: The Angel Album (used his translation that won the Grammy Award for Best New Opera Recording of 1978-1979), RCA Cast Album of the stage production of Fiddler on the Roof (Gold Record), United Artists Soundtrack Album for the film Fiddler on the Roof (Gold and Platinum Records), Arista Album Free to Be You and Me on which he was represented by a poem Housework and the song William’s Doll music by Mary Rodgers (Gold Record).
Harnick and Bock have been awarded The Johnny Mercer Award presented by the Song Writers Hall of Fame, Spirit of American Creativity Award to Jerry Bock given by the Foundation for a Creative America and Jewish Cultural Achievement Award in the Performing Arts field given by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. Harnick has been awarded the Marc Blitzstein Memorial Award for the achievement in the creation of opera librettos by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, Honorary Degrees from Illinois Wesleyan University: Doctor of Humane Letters (1996) and by Muskingum College (1997). Harnick is a member of The Dramatists Guild and the Songwriters Guild of America.
[Bio as of November 2010]