Profile of a Composer: Lorenz Hart

Before there was Rodgers and Hammerstein there was Rodgers and Hart.  But, who is the Hart in Rodgers and Hart.

Lorenz Hart

The Hart is Lorenz Milton Hart.  You’ve probably heard of some of the songs he wrote with Richard Rodgers.  Songs such as Blue Moon, The Lady is a Tramp, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, My Funny Valentine, With a Song In My Heart, and Isn’t it Romantic?.

Lorenz Hart was born on May 2, 1895 in New York City to Jewish immigrants, Max and Frieda Isenberg Hart.

He attended the Columbia University School of Journalism.  By 1918, he was working for the Shubert brothers, who was responsible for establishing the Broadway district.

In 1919, he was introduced to Richard Rodgers by a mutual friend.  They struggled for years to make a name for themselves in the world of musical theatre.  Richard Rodgers wrote the melody or music while Lorenz Hart wrote the lyrics.

In 1925, the wrote a score for The Garrick Gaieties, which brought them success and acclaim.

Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart

The duo would go on to write 26 Broadway musicals together over the course of their 20+ partnership.

Stephen Holden described their music as “The Rodgers and Hart songs have been described as intimate and destined for long lives outside the theater”.

The four most successful productions they are known for are Babes in Arms, The Boys From Syracuse, Pal Joey, and On Your Toes.

On a PBS special Lorenz Hart was described as “the expressive bard of the urban generation which matured during the interwar years.”  He was also described as a showman.

By the 1930s, the duo was writing the scores for several films including Love Me Tonight and The Phantom President.

Lorenz Hart

Lorenz Hart was a people person who gave large parties and attracted people.  He also began to travel more and drink more.  He was known to disappear for weeks on alcoholic binges.

Hart lived with his widowed mother and was affected by his mother’s death in April 1943.

The final work of Rodgers and Hart was the 1942 new musical By Jupiter and the 1943 revival of A Connecticut Yankee.  Hart’s last lyrics were for the song “To Keep My Love Alive”.

Lorenz Hart disappeared during the opening of A Connecticut Yankee in 1943.  He was later found ill and died on on November 22, 1943 at the age of 48.  Mount Zion Cemetery in Queens County, New York.

Rodgers and Hart songs were performed by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday.

A loose tale of the life of Lorenz Hart and his partnership with Richard Rodgers can be found in the 1948 MGM biopic Words and Music, starring Mickey Rooney.