Acclaimed lyricist Sheldon Harnick, known for his works Fiddler on the Roof and Fiorello! has passed away. He died on Friday, June 23rd in New York City at the age of 99 of natural causes.
Harnick was considered to be one of the last surviving stars of Broadway’s Golden Age. He collaborated with composer Jerry Bock to create some of the most memorable musicals. Read on to know more about his life and career.
Sheldon Harnick Dies at 99
Harnick’s demise was confirmed by his spokesperson, Sean Katz. He is survived by his wife Margery Gray and their two children and four grandchildren. Born in April 1924 in Chicago, the lyricist started taking an interest in music from an early age and learned to play the violin.
Harnick served in the US Army for a brief period and then pursued a Bachelor of Music degree at Northwestern University School of Music from 1946 to 1949. He then collaborated with various orchestras in the Chicago area before relocating to New York City, where he started his career as a music writer.
In 1956, Harnick met composer Jerry Bock and started a collaboration that went on to become one of the most significant musical partnerships of the 1960s. Their first musical, The Body Beautiful, had a limited run of only 60 performances in 1958/
However, their subsequent work Fiorello! (1959) became highly successful, running for 795 performances and earning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In 1964, they created Fiddler on the Roof which is still considered a legendary Broadway musical.
Harnick was a Songwriters Hall of Famer
Apart from Broadway, Harnick also worked in the opera scene and wrote the libretto for Coyote Tales, featuring music by Henry Mollicone. The show opened at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City in March 1998. In the early 2000s, he wrote and composed tracks for the musicals Dragons and The Phantom Tollbooth.
Earlier in 1972, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame for his contribution to Broadway music. In his later years, Harnick released an album named Sheldon Harnick: Hidden Treasures (1949–2013), which featured demos and pieces from his Broadway shows. He continued to work till 2022 and composed for a musical adaptation of The Dragon by Evgeny Schwartz.
Tributes Pour In for the Lyricist
Several fans and celebs took to Twitter to pay tributes to Harnick. Actor Iain Armitage wrote, “The incredible Sheldon Harnick died today at age 99, having given the world so many wonderful works of art. Thank you for everything. ❤️.”
A fan tweeted, “Hands down one of the greatest lyricists of our time, Sheldon Harnick, has passed away at age 99. Fiddler is a masterpiece, She Loves Me is iconic, and The Apple Tree doesn’t get nearly the recognition it deserves. What a career. May his memory be a blessing.”
Another added, “Sheldon Harnick is my favorite lyricist. his words are witty, specific, uncomplicated, delicate, always slightly awestruck by the power of the emotions they’re conveying. he wrote graceful words that perfectly fit their graceful melodies. what a life and artistic legacy.”
May Sheldon Harnick’s soul rest in peace! Stay tuned for more news and updates.