120 years ago, on June 28, 1902, one of the world’s greatest composers was born. Richard Rodgers, composer of The Sound of Music, Cinderella, Oklahoma! and other beloved musicals, changed the face of American music forever.
We’ve compiled 120 facts about the legendary composer to celebrate his 120th birthday! Here’s a small sampling to get you started…
Featured Fun Facts
1. Richard Rodgers is credited with writing between 900 and 1,500 songs, an estimated 85 of which are considered standards. He wrote over 40 musicals and, to date, 19 film versions of his musicals have been made.
2. Rodgers earned numerous accolades, including 2 Pulitzer Prize honors, 2 Primetime Emmy Awards, 2 Grammy Awards, 1 Academy Award and 8 Tony Awards.
3. According to Noël Coward, Richard Rodgers was so prolific and lightning-fast at writing music that he could “pee melody.” He would typically create the music after lyrics were written by his longtime collaborator, Oscar Hammerstein II.
4. Rodgers is the first person to have achieved PEGOT status by earning a Pulitzer Prize, along with an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award. Marvin Hamlisch is the only other person to accomplish this feat.
5. Rodgers’ 1938 show The Boys from Syracuse, written with lyricist Lorenz Hart, was the first Broadway musical based on a Shakespeare play.
6. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s 1943 musical Oklahoma!, widely regarded as the first integrated “book musical,” set a new standard for Broadway. For the first time, music and dance were inextricably linked to the story and themes of the show, advancing the plot and richly developing the characters.
7. Rodgers’ hit musical The Sound of Music has no overture! The original script began with the nuns praying, and Rodgers wanted to set their prayer to music. Having little experience with liturgical music, he did some research at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York. Mother Morgan, head of the music department, invited Rodgers to a specially arranged concert of religious music, which she conducted. (Rodgers later recalled Mother Morgan encouraging her singers with a feisty “Pray it!”) Inspired, Rodgers set the Catholic prayer “Dixit Dominus” to music. The result was “Preludium,” redubbed “Prelude” for the film.
8. More than 45 years before SIX premiered on Broadway, Richard Rodgers wrote a musical about Henry VIII and his wives! Co-written with lyricist Sheldon Harnick, Rex premiered on April 24, 1976. Unfortunately, after an icy response from critics, the show closed six weeks later.
9. Rodgers was an honoree at the first Kennedy Center Honors in 1978. President Jimmy Carter presented him with the award.
10. Composer Alec Wilder wrote, “Legend has it that somewhere amongst the many radio stations of the United States, a song by Richard Rodgers may be heard at any time, day or night, the year round. Well, I, for one, hope this is so.”
To read the remaining 110 facts, visit the official Rodgers & Hammerstein website!