Goddard Lieberson
Goddard circa 1950
Born(1911-04-05)April 5, 1911
DiedMay 29, 1977(1977-05-29) (aged 66)
New York City, U.S.
Years active1949–1977
(m. 1946⁠–⁠1977)
(his death)
Children2, including Peter Lieberson

Goddard Lieberson (April 5, 1911 – May 29, 1977) was the president of Columbia Records from 1956 to 1971, and again from 1973 to 1975.[1] He became president of the Recording Industry Association of America in 1964.[2] He was also a composer, and studied with George Frederick McKay, at the University of Washington, Seattle. He married Vera Zorina in 1946 and with her had 2 children.


Lieberson was born to a Jewish family[3] on April 5, 1911, in Hanley in Staffordshire; his father was a manufacturer of rubber shoe heels who took his family to the United States when Lieberson was a child.[4] He studied classical piano and composition at the Eastman School of Music in the 1930s and after graduating he wrote classical concert reviews under the pseudonym "Johann Sebastian".[5] He was married to actress/dancer Vera Zorina from 1946 until his death in 1977. They had two sons: Peter Lieberson, a composer, and Jonathan Lieberson. Lieberson was noted for his personal elegance, taste and style, and was renowned as a wit, bon vivant and international traveller, whose circle of friends and acquaintances included Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Richard Rodgers, W. Somerset Maugham, Noël Coward and John Gielgud.[5]

Lieberson began working for the CBS group of labels in 1938 – the same year the company was acquired by the CBS broadcasting empire – and he began his career at Columbia as an A&R Manager. Before becoming president of the company, Lieberson was responsible for Columbia's introduction of the long-playing record.[6] The LP was particularly well-suited to Columbia's long-established classical repertoire, as recorded by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Artur Rodziński, Dmitri Mitropoulos, and Leonard Bernstein. Lieberson was also a lifelong friend of musician, recording artist, TV personality and Columbia A&R manager/producer Mitch Miller, having met Miller when the two were studying music at the Eastman School of Music in the 1930s[7]

He was promoted to president of Columbia Records from 1956 to 1971 and again from 1973 to 1975. In 1966, in a reorganization, Columbia Records became subsidiary to the newly formed CBS/Columbia Group.[8] In 1967, Lieberson promoted Clive Davis to president of Columbia Records.

In 1977, Lieberson co-wrote and produced the CBS-TV special They Said it with Music: From Yankee Doodle to Ragtime, a salute to American songwriters throughout the ages, starring Bernadette Peters,[9] Tony Randall, Jason Robards,[10] Jean Stapleton[11] and Flip Wilson,[12][13] with appearances by Thurl Ravenscroft and Jimmy Griffin, a founding member of the soft-rock band Bread.[14] The show aired July 4,[15] thirty-seven days after Lieberson died of cancer in New York City on May 29, 1977, aged 66.[6]

Cast recordings

His greatest legacy, however, was probably the original cast recordings he produced. Columbia was not the first to offer such recordings; Musicraft's 1938 recording of The Cradle Will Rock was the first (not Decca's 1943 recording of Oklahoma! as is often erroneously stated). Lieberson's recordings at Columbia, however, were influential.

In addition to documenting the musical performances of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Lieberson also produced notable studio cast recordings of musicals of the 1930s and 1940s, such as Pal Joey and The Boys from Syracuse, for which cast albums had not been made.

Though vinyl fans might consider Lieberson's greatest legacy his being responsible for the introduction of the LP record, most observers consider his Broadway show production as his singular achievement.

Though other labels had issued Broadway shows on LP (Decca issued Guys and Dolls in 1950) Lieberson's extensive coverage of Broadway mainstreamed and popularized original cast recordings.

In fact, Lieberson provided the $375,000 needed to produce the stage production of My Fair Lady, considered to be among the greatest shows ever, in exchange for the rights to release on Columbia the original cast recording.[16]

Both on stage and at the record store the investment paid off handsomely. The original cast recording (in mono only), starring Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison, topped the Billboard 200 charts for 15 weeks 1956—1959. A stereo recording produced in England with Andrews and Harrison was issued in 1959.[16]


Preceded by President of Columbia Records/CBS Records 1956 to 1971 Succeeded byClive Davis Preceded by President of RIAA 1964 to 1977 Succeeded by Preceded byClive Davis President of CBS Records 1973 to 1975 Succeeded byWalter Yetnikoff


  1. ^ "Lieberson, Back at C.B.S. Post Talks About Rock and Records. Lieberson Challenges Image". The New York Times. May 31, 1973. Retrieved 2012-08-25.
  2. ^ "Goddard Lieberson Named Head of Record Association". The New York Times. January 22, 1964. Retrieved August 25, 2012. Goddard Lieberson, head of Columbia Records, was elected president of the Record Industry Association of America yesterday. ...
  3. ^ Jewish Journal: "Here's to you, Paul Simon: Skirball showcases his 'Words & Music'} by Ryan Torok April 26, 2017
  4. ^ Darryl Lyman, Great Jews in Music, Jonathan David Publishers, 1986.
  5. ^ a b Dannen, Frederic, Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside The Music Business, Vintage Books, 1991 (ISBN 0099813106), p. 58
  6. ^ a b "Goddard Lieberson, Who Fostered LP's at Columbia Records, Dies; Goddard Lieberson, Who Fostered LP's at Columbia Records, Dead". The New York Times. May 30, 1977. Retrieved August 25, 2012. Goddard Lieberson, president of Columbia Records for 19 years, who introduced long-playing records to the American public, died of cancer early yesterday at his home in Manhattan. He was 66 years old.
  7. ^ Dannen, Frederic, Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside The Music Business, Vintage Books, 1991 (ISBN 0099813106), p. 62
  8. ^ "Lieberson Heads New C.B.S. Group. Put in Charge of Activities Outside Broadcasting". The New York Times. June 10, 1966. Retrieved August 25, 2012. Goddard Lieberson, one of the more prominent figures in the phonograph recording industry, has been named president of the C.B.S./Columbia Group, a new unit of the Columbia Broadcasting System for expanded activities in education and music. The unit is part of the company's long range plans to achieve greater diversification outside the field of broadcasting.
  9. ^ 'After your honeymoon' - Bernadette Peters & friends (YouTube)
  10. ^ 'Bobbing Up and Down' - Bernadette Peters and Jason Robards (YouTube)
  11. ^ "Husbands and Wives" songs from They Said it with Music, YouTube
  12. ^ My Name is Morgan...Flip Wilson (YouTube)
  13. ^ Flip Wilson: 'If That's Your Idea of a Wonderful Time...Take Me Home!' (YouTube)
  14. ^ They Said it with Music (featuring James Griffin), YouTube
  15. ^ Vincent Terrace, Television Specials: 5,336 Entertainment Programs, 1936-2012 (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2013), p. 361.
  16. ^ a b Fremer, Michael (November 3, 2013). "Analogplanet Interviews Producer/Arranger/Musician John Simon (Corrected Introduction)". Analogplanet. Retrieved September 9, 2018.