Charles Strouse (born June 7, 1928) is an American composer and lyricist best known for writing the music to the musicals Bye Bye Birdie and Annie, amongst others.
Life and career
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 the 1960 hit Bye Bye Birdie, with lyrics by Lee Adams, who would become his long-time collaborator. For this show, Strouse won his first Tony Award in the category of best musical, and Bye Bye Birdie is considered the precursor of the rock musical. Strouse's next show, All American, with a book by Mel Brooks and lyrics by Adams, came in 1962; it was not a success but it produced the standard “Once Upon a Time” (recorded by Eddie Fisher, Al Martino, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, and Bobby Darin, among others). Following this were Golden Boy (1964, also with Adams), starring Sammy Davis, Jr. and It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman (1966, based on the popular comic strip) which was modestly successful; it introduced the song "You've Got Possibilities" sung by Linda Lavin.
In 1970, Applause (starring Lauren Bacall, with book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and lyrics by Adams) won Strouse his second Tony Award. 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), Rags (1986), Nick & Nora (1993), and An American Tragedy (1995, with lyrics by David Shaber). Strouse also wrote a number of musical revues, many with Adams. He wrote the music and lyrics for the animated special Lyle, Lyle Crocodile which aired on HBO in 1987.
Strouse's film scores include the classics Bonnie and Clyde (1967), There Was a Crooked Man... (1970, with Henry Fonda and Kirk Douglas), 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 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 2004, 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.
Upcoming works by Strouse include an adaptation of the Paddy Chayevsky film Marty starring John C. Reilly. 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 has won Emmy Awards for music in television adaptions of Bye Bye Birdie and Annie. He is also the recipient of the ASCAP Foundation Richard Rodgers Award and the Oscar Hammerstein Award. He is also a member of the Theater Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Strouse is married to director-choreographer Barbara Siman. They have 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."
- A Pound in Your Pocket (musical) (1958)
- Bye Bye Birdie (1960)
- All American (1962)
- Golden Boy (1964)
- It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman (1966)
- Applause (1970)
- Six (1971, Off-Broadway)
- I and Albert (1972, London)
- Annie (1977)
- A Broadway Musical (1978)
- Charlie and Algernon (1979, London, as Flowers for Algernon); (1981)
- Bring Back Birdie (1981)
- Nightingale (1982; this work is often described as an opera)
- Dance a Little Closer (1983)
- Mayor (1985)
- Rags (1986)
- Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge (1989)
- Nick & Nora (1993)
- Annie Warbucks (1993)
- An American Tragedy (1995)
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (1998)
- The Future of the American Musical Theater (2004 opera)
- Real Men (2005)
- Studio (2006)
- Minsky's (2009)
- Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
- The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968)
- There Was a Crooked Man... (1970)
- Just Tell Me What You Want (1980)
- Annie (1982)
- The Worst Witch (1986)
- Ishtar (1987)
- All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989) (songs only)
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (1990)
Awards and nominations
- 1961 Tony Award for Best Musical (Bye Bye Birdie, winner)
- 1965 Tony Award for Best Musical (Golden Boy, nominee)
- 1970 Tony Award for Best Musical (Applause, winner)
- 1977 Tony Award for Best Original Score (Annie, winner)
- 1977 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music (Annie, nominee)
- 1981 Tony Award for Best Original Score (Charlie and Algernon, nominee)
- 1986 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music (Mayor, nominee)
- 1987 Tony Award for Best Original Score (Rags, nominee)
- 1987 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music (Rags, nominee)
- 1992 Tony Award for Best Original Score (Nick & Nora, nominee)
- 2012 Rochester (NY) Music Hall of Fame (Lifetime Body of Work)
- 2013 Five Towns College named Charles Strouse School of Music