What do Jay-Z, Kobe Bryant, Archie Bunker, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ed Koch, Bart Simpson, Bruce Campbell, Bonnie and Clyde, and J-Lo have in common? The answer: Charles Strouse (and his hit songs)!
On June 7, 2018, Charles Strouse, the Tony Award-winning composer of Annie, Bye Bye and Applause, and some of the most popular music from the last 60 years of Broadway, film and television, turns 90. To mark the occasion, a year-long celebration of events, including tributes, concerts, revivals and international productions, will take place across the United States and around the world.
There may be no other living composer from America’s popular songbook whose work is as integrated into the popular culture as that of Charles Strouse. This year, his iconic songs – from “Tomorrow” and “Put on a Happy Face to “Those Were the Days” – will be heard worldwide, from Abu Dhabi to Congo to Belgium, on television in “The Simpsons” and at The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. Annie and Bye Bye Birdie are among the most popular musicals of all time, produced by regional, amateur and school groups all over the world. In the past five years alone, Annie has had 10,000 productions worldwide – introducing tens of thousands of kids to the magic of theater.
Charles Strouse has won three Tony Awards, an Emmy and two Grammy Awards. His song “Once Upon a Time,” from the musical All American, is an American Standard, and has been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and more. “Those Were the Days” launched over 200 episodes of the “All in the Family” and continues to reach new generations of television audiences in syndication (most recently featured on “Saturday Night Live”).
It is estimated that “Tomorrow” has been sung by 95% of America’s young girls, and the list of remarkably diverse singers who have recorded/performed it includes Ariana Grande, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Barbra Streisand, Lou Rawls, Grace Jones, Petula Clark, Kermit the Frog, Sutton Foster, Elaine Paige, Lea Salonga, Alvin and the Chipmunk and Idina Menzel. Next month, Bart Simpson will don Annie’s red wig and belt a rendition, in an upcoming episode of “The Simpsons.”
Charles Strouse, a long–standing member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Theater Hall of Fame, is one of America’s most successful musical theatre composers. His first Broadway musical, Bye Bye Birdie (1960), was written with his long–time collaborator Lee Adams, and starred Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera and Paul Lynde. It produced hit songs including “Put on a Happy Face,” “A Lot of Livin’ to Do,” and the fan anthem “We Love You Conrad.” The show won Strouse a Tony Award and the London Critics Best Foreign Musical Award.
In 1962, his musical All American, (with a book by Mel Brooks) produced the song “Once Upon a Time.” It soon became a popular, and beloved, American Standard. In 1970, Applause, a musical adaptation of All About Eve starring Lauren Bacall, achieved the same honors, earning Strouse his second Tony.
In 1977, Strouse teamed with lyricist Martin Charnin and librettist Thomas Meehan on the Broadway musical Annie, earning Strouse his third Tony Award. Running for 2,377 performances and yielding countless productions around the world, Strouse’s score includes “Tomorrow,” “It’s the Hard–Knock Life,” and “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.” Since 1990, Annie has been performed in 57 countries/territories, translated into 28 languages, and produced at 4,706 schools across the United States. It was made into two top-grossing movies and Rapper Jay-Z’s quadruple platinum album, “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” won the 1999 Grammy for Best Rap Album.
He received Tony nominations for his scores of Golden Boy (1966), starring Sammy Davis Jr.; Charlie & Algernon (1980), based on the novel Flowers for Algernon; Rags (1986), a collaboration with Stephen Schwartz and Joseph Stein; and Nick and Nora(1991), a musical based on Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man characters, written with Richard Maltby, Jr. and Arthur Laurents.
Strouse’s other musicals include It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s Superman (1966); I And Albert (1972); A Broadway Musical (1978); Bring Back Birdie (1981); Dance a Little Closer (1983), Mayor (1985), and Annie Warbucks (1993).
Strouse’s song “Those Were the Days,” one of the most popular television themes of all time, launched over 200 episodes of All in the Family, memorably featuring Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton singing the song from behind their spinet.
His many film scores include Bonnie & Clyde, There Was a Crooked Man. The Night They Raided Minsky’s, Just Tell Me What You Want, and the animated feature All Dogs Go to Heaven. The film version of Bye Bye Birdie starred Dick Van Dyke, Ann Margaret and Bobby Rydell, was included in Entertainment Weekly’s “Top 40 Best High School Movies.” Annie, directed by John Houston and starring Carol Burnett, Albert Finney, and Bernadette Peters, was one of the top grossing films of 1982. In 2014, Columbia Pictures released a contemporary adaptation, starring Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz and Quvenzhané Wallis, which went on to gross $133 million.
On June 7, 2018 Charles Strouse turned will turn 90, but as the song goes, he’s “got a lotta livin’ to do.” Strouse is looking ahead to new projects including a revival of Rags. http://www.charlesstrouse.com