Sheldon Harnick
Harnick in 2006
Harnick in 2006
Background information
Birth nameSheldon Mayer Harnick
Born (1924-04-30) April 30, 1924 (age 98)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
GenresMusical theater
Years active1949–present

Sheldon Mayer Harnick (born April 30, 1924) is an American lyricist and songwriter best known for his collaborations with composer Jerry Bock on musicals such as Fiorello! and Fiddler on the Roof.

Early life

Sheldon Mayer Harnick was born to American Jewish parents and grew up in the Chicago neighborhood of Portage Park.[1]

Musical career

Harnick began writing music while still in Carl Schurz High School in Chicago. After his Army service, he graduated from the Northwestern University School of Music (1946–1949) with a Bachelor of Music degree, and worked with various orchestras in the Chicago area. He then moved to New York City and wrote for many musicals and revues.[2] He was friends with Charlotte Rae from college, and he went to see her one night at the Village Vanguard where she was singing a revue. Yip Harburg, who was one of Harnick's idols, heard she was singing a song of his and decided to come. He told Harnick that he enjoyed his writing, and urged him to continue. Harburg advised Harnick to work with a large number of composers. He also counseled him to write character and comic songs, not ballads, for Broadway. One of his compositions, "The Merry Minuet", was popularized by the Kingston Trio.[3]

Around 1956, Harnick met Jerry Bock, forming "what is arguably the most important musical partnership of the '60s."[4] Their first musical was The Body Beautiful, running for only 60 performances in 1958, but Fiorello! (1959) ran for 795 performances and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Fiddler on the Roof (1964) "became one of the most cherished of all Broadway musicals."[4]

Harnick wrote the libretto for the opera Coyote Tales, with music by Henry Mollicone, which received its world premiere at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City in March 1998.[5] He wrote the book, music and lyrics to the musical Dragons, which was performed in 2003 at the Luna Stage in Montclair, New Jersey.[6] He wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the book with Norton Juster for the musical The Phantom Tollbooth, based on the book by Juster. The musical premiered at the Kennedy Center in 2007.[7]

Harnick released the album Sheldon Harnick: Hidden Treasures (1949–2013) in 2014, which includes recordings of song demos and pieces cut from Broadway shows from his private collection.[8] In 2020, Harnick worked on a musical adaptation of the Soviet play The Dragon by Evgeny Schwartz.[9]

Stage productions

Honors and awards


  1. ^ "Words into Song". Northwestern. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  2. ^ "Biography of Sheldon Harnick". MTI Shows. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2013-11-07.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ a b "Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick". Broadway:The American Musical. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  5. ^ "'Coyote Tales' listing", accessed March 4, 2012
  6. ^ Jones, Kenneth."Sheldon Harnick's Musical, 'Dragons', Roars in NJ Starting Nov. 13; Harnick in the House for Opening", November 13, 2003
  7. ^ "'The Phantom Tollbooth' listing", accessed March 4, 2012
  8. ^ "At 90, 'Fiddler' Lyricist Tells His Story". April 30, 2014. Retrieved 2020-06-01.
  9. ^ Gans, Andrew (April 24, 2020). "Checking in With Tony Winner Sheldon Harnick, Co-Creator of Fiddler on the Roof, Fiorello!, More". Playbill. Retrieved 2020-06-01.
  10. ^ Leeds, Ryan. "Interview With Sheldon Harnick: A “Fiddler” at the York", February 11, 2014
  11. ^ "The Pulitzer Prize, Drama". Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  12. ^ "Sheldon Harnick". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  13. ^ "The University of Pennsylvania Glee Club Award of Merit Recipients". Archived from the original on 2012-02-09.
  14. ^ "The William Inge Theatre Festival". Retrieved March 2, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ Hetrick, Adam (November 23, 2009). "Bock and Harnick Receive Hammerstein Award Nov. 23; Cook, Kuhn, Kudisch and More Will Sing". Playbill. Archived from the original on October 13, 2012. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  16. ^ "The 2016 Tony Awards: Winners". Retrieved 2016-06-14.
  17. ^ "Sheldon Harnick | Songwriters Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2022-07-16.