Broadway Composers: Kern and Hammerstein

Just as Richard Rodgers was part of the Rodgers and Hart collaboration, prior before he joined Oscar Hammerstein, so was Hammerstein part of a writing partnership also.

Kern and Hammerstein was a duo that consisted of Jerome Kern as the composer and Oscar Hammerstein II as the lyricist.

Jerome Kern

They are best known for their book and production of Show Boat, which was the first musical to have a true book.

The men met in 1925 and began a lifelong friendship and business collaboration.  Hammerstein was the one lyricist he worked with for any amount of time.

Kern longed to turn Edna Ferber’s novel Show Boat into a stage musical.  He persuaded Hammerstein to help him adapt it and Ziegfeld to produce it.  The show is the one production that continues to be performed and revived.

In 1929, the men worked together on the Broadway show Sweet Adeline.  This was followed by Music in the Air in 1932 and Three Sisters in 1934.  The men also collaborated on the score for the film versions of these productions.

Oscar Hammerstein II

In 1939, the duo produced Kern’s last Broadway show, Very Warm in May.

When Kern died in 1945, Hammerstein was by his side in the hospital.  Hammerstein hummed “I’ve Told Ev’ry Little Star” from Music in the Air, which was Kern’s favorite.  Hammerstein said he knew Kern had died when he received no response.

Hammerstein went on to fame as part of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

However, the changes to the musical that was made by Kern and Hammerstein live on even today.