November 25, 2004 by

Cy Coleman


Categories: Hollywood, Musicians

ccoleman.jpgCy Coleman, an accomplished jazz pianist and prolific composer of Broadway show tunes, died on Nov. 18 of heart failure. He was 75.
Coleman was born in the Bronx and given the birth name Seymour Kaufman. A child prodigy on the piano, he was only seven years old when he made his debut at Carnegie Hall. Coleman studied classical music at the High School of Music and Art and the New York College of Music, but in his spare time, he played jazz on Manhattan’s club circuit.
Coleman soon developed a reputation for writing up-tempo pop songs. Many of these tunes — “Big Spender,” “If My Friends Could See Me Now,” “Witchcraft,” “The Best Is Yet to Come” — became standards for singers such as Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole.
In 1953, Coleman found his calling when he wrote the music for the Broadway production of “John Murray Anderson’s Almanac.” For the next five decades, he wrote or co-wrote the music for more than two dozen shows, including “Wildcat,” “Little Me,” “Seesaw” and “Sweet Charity.” The 1978 score for “On the Twentieth Century” earned Coleman his first Tony Award. He won two more Tonys for “City of Angels” and “The Will Rogers Follies.” Coleman’s final Broadway production was the 1997 play “The Life,” however, two other Coleman musicals — “Like Jazz” and “The Great Ostrovsky” — were performed during the 2003-2004 season in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, respectively.
In addition to his work in the theatre, Coleman also wrote film scores for the movies “Father Goose,” “The Art of Love,” “The Heartbreak Kid,” “Garbo Talks” and “Family Business.” He won three Emmys and two Grammys, and received an Academy Award nomination (for the 1969 Hollywood adaptation of “Sweet Charity”). The recipient of the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame Johnny Mercer Award and The ASCAP Foundation’s Richard Rodgers Award for Lifetime Achievement in the American Musical Theater, Coleman was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1981.
The lights of Broadway theaters dimmed for one minute last Friday to honor Coleman’s memory. A revival of “Sweet Charity,” is slated to open in New York in spring 2005.
The Best Is yet to Come Download “The Best Is Yet to Come”
Witchcraft Download “Witchcraft”

6 Responses to Cy Coleman

  1. Chet Taylor

    Cy Coleman was one of the all-time best composers in the history of American musical theater — he was certainly my favorite. Yet, it is amazing to me that so few people seem to appreciate his genius. In addition to the 8 Broadway shows listed in this tribute, he also composed the music for “Barnum” and “I Love My Wife,” both of which have incredible scores. Perhaps the “Sweet Charity” revival will bring much deserved attention to Cy’s work. Perhaps some day soon, I’ll just have to produce a revue of Cy’s music to showcase his extraordinary talent.

  2. Neil Rutherford

    I was so fortunate to have spent a lot of time with Cy when I was one of the ANGEL CITY FOUR in the original London production of CITY OF ANGELS. We spents many hours rehearsing the complex four part harmony for the show, but it was always a huge pleasure to be working directly with this legend. He was wonderful – telling us stories, making us sound the very best we could and never settling for second best.
    Alas City of Angels never did well at the Box Office, but the sheer brilliance of having spent time with Cy made our time together very special. At least the legacy of his brilliant music will go on for many years to come.

  3. John Molligodde

    Greatly saddened by the news that I received belatedly of this fascinating composer of Broadway music. Only just recently did I acquire the album “It Started With A Dream” – my love for Broadway music started with Cy Coleman.
    My most favorite song, “The Riviera” (as sung by Blossom Dearie) will busy me searching for more songs by Cy Coleman that are not associated with his shows.
    Feb 2005

  4. Gary Duncan

    I just saw a production of City Of Angels at the Boston Conservatory Theatre & it was wonderful, really smashing! I knew Coleman had died, but had never heard of this show so I got on my computer & googled it & was very surprised to learn it only ran 1,000 times in NY, won the Tony in either 1989 or 1990 as best new musical. I think a revival may work better today & someone should do it. There are two outstanding numbers in this show & the whole concept of a writer & his characters interacting, and how much “life” goes into a writers “fiction” & the parady of film making should hold an audiance today.
    At least students are remembering this seemingly little remembered show!

  5. Deborah

    I am a fan of his jazzy music. Does anyone know where I can find his album “Ages of Rock”? Don’t know when it was released but I was introduced to it in 1970. It’s classical music with a jazz beat. Great music! I would love to find it.

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