Rodgers, Richard Charles

Rodgers, Richard Charles, 1902–79, American composer, b. New York City. Rodgers studied at Columbia and the Institute of Musical Art, New York City. He met both of his future collaborators, Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein 2d, while at Columbia. Rodgers wrote his first song at 14 and had his first Broadway show, a flop, produced when he was 18. Rodgers and Hart began collaborating in 1919 and had their first hit play with The Garrick Gaieties (1925) and their first hit song with “Manhattan.” Frequently characterized by a brash insouciance and lively sophistication, the duo's outstanding musical comedies include The Girl Friend (1926); A Connecticut Yankee (1927; rev. 1943); On Your Toes (1936), containing the famous “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue”; Babes in Arms (1937); The Boys from Syracuse (1938); Pal Joey (1940); and By Jupiter (1942).

In 1942, Rodgers and Hammerstein began their collaboration; their first musical was the tremendously successful, Pulitzer Prize–winning Oklahoma! (1943). Generally more idealistic and often more markedly American in character than the earlier Hart collaborations, most of their nine musicals were enormously popular, e.g., Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), and The King and I (1951). Perhaps the most performed American composer, Rodgers is famous for his inventive and intensely melodic compositions. During his long career he wrote 39 musicals (30 of which became films), more than 1,000 songs, and a few symphonic works, notably the film score for Victory at Sea. From 1962 to 1969 he was head of the Music Theater of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City.

See his autobiography, Musical Stages (1975, repr. 1995); biographies by D. Ewen (1963), W. G. Hyland (1998), and M. Secrest (2001); D. Taylor, Some Enchanted Evening (1953, repr. 1972); E. Mordden, Rodgers and Hammerstein (1992); G. Block, ed., The Richard Rodgers Reader (2002).

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