|Born||June 7, 1928|
|Origin||New York City, United States|
(m. 1962; died 2023)
Charles Strouse (born June 7, 1928) is an American composer and lyricist best known for writing the music to such Broadway musicals as Bye Bye Birdie, Applause, and Annie.
Strouse was born in New York City, to Jewish parents, Ethel (née Newman) and Ira Strouse, who worked in the tobacco business. A graduate of the Eastman School of Music, he studied under Arthur Berger, David Diamond, Aaron Copland and Nadia Boulanger.
Strouse's first Broadway musical was Bye Bye Birdie, with lyrics by Lee Adams, which opened in 1960. Adams became his long-time collaborator. For this show, Strouse won his first Tony Award in the category of best musical.
Strouse's next show was All American (1962), with a book by Mel Brooks and lyrics by Adams; it was not a success, closing after 80 performances, but it produced the standard “Once Upon a Time” (recorded by Perry Como, Eddie Fisher, Al Martino, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, and Bobby Darin, among dozens of others).
Following this was Golden Boy (1964, also with Adams), starring Sammy Davis Jr., which ran for 568 performances. The musical It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman (1966, based on the popular comic strip) closed after 129 performances, but introduced the song "You've Got Possibilities" sung by Linda Lavin. Its theme would also be adopted by Washington, D.C. television station WTOP (now WUSA) for news broadcasts.
In 1970, Applause (starring Lauren Bacall, with book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and lyrics by Adams) won Strouse his second Tony Award, for Best Musical. In 1977, Strouse adapted another comic strip for the stage, creating the hit Annie, which included the song "Tomorrow," which quickly became a "monstrous song hit," and garnered him his third Tony Award and two Grammy Awards.
Other Strouse musicals include Charlie and Algernon (1979), Dance a Little Closer (1983, with lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, which closed after one performance), Rags (1986; which closed after four performances and 18 previews), Nick & Nora (1993, which closed after 9 performances), and An American Tragedy (1995, with lyrics by David Shaber, performed at Muhlenberg College).
Strouse also wrote musical revues, many with Adams, and his songs were included in revues. The revues included Shoestring Revue (with Adams and Michael Stewart) (1955 – Off–Broadway), Medium Rare (with Adams) (1960 - Chicago), By Strouse (1978 – Off–Broadway at The Ballroom), Upstairs At O'Neals (1982 – Nightclub Revue), Can't Stop Dancin (1994 – Marymount Theatre), and A Lot Of Living! (1996 – conceived and directed by Barbara Siman at Rainbow and Stars).
Strouse wrote the music and lyrics for the animated special Lyle, Lyle Crocodile which aired on HBO in 1987. His film scores include Bonnie and Clyde (1967), There Was a Crooked Man... (1970, with Henry Fonda and Kirk Douglas), the Norman Lear production of The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968, with Adams) and the popular animated movie All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). He and Adams also wrote the theme song “Those Were the Days” for the Norman Lear television show All in the Family. Strouse's songs have been heard on the radio throughout his career and have run the gamut from girl-band pop to hip hop. In 1958, his song “Born Too Late” was number seven on the Billboard charts, and in 1999 the quadruple platinum Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) by artist Jay-Z (which sampled "It's The Hard Knock Life" from Annie) was the winner of a Grammy for Best Rap Album of the year & the Billboard R&B Album of the Year.
Strouse's writing also extends into orchestral works, chamber music, piano concertos and opera. His Concerto America, composed in 2002 to commemorate 9/11 and the spirit of New York City, premiered at The Boston Pops in 2002, and his opera Nightingale (1982), starring Sarah Brightman, had a successful run in London, followed by many subsequent productions. In 1977, Strouse founded the ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop in New York, through which many young composers and lyricists have found a forum for their work.
A musical stage adaptation of the Paddy Chayefsky film Marty starring John C. Reilly premiered at Boston's Huntington Theatre in October 2002, with lyrics by Lee Adams and Strouse and the book by Rupert Holmes. Real Men, for which Strouse wrote the music and lyrics, premiered in January 2005 at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami, Florida, and his musical Studio, premiered at Theatre Building Chicago in August 2006. The musical Minsky's, with music by Strouse, book by Bob Martin, and lyrics by Susan Birkenhead (loosely based on the movie The Night They Raided Minsky's) premiered in January 2009 at the Ahmanson Theater.
Strouse won Emmy Awards for music in television adaptions of Bye Bye Birdie and Annie. He is also the recipient of the 1999 ASCAP Foundation Richard Rodgers Award and the Oscar Hammerstein Award. He is a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame (in 2001) and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Strouse was married to director-choreographer Barbara Siman until her death on February 16, 2023. They had 4 children: Benjamin, Nicholas, Victoria and William.
Strouse received an Emperor Has No Clothes Award at the Freedom From Religion Foundation's 34th annual national convention on October 8, 2011. The award is "reserved for public figures who make known their dissent from religion".