Broadway Composers: Rodgers and Hart

Long before there was Rodgers and Hammerstein, there was Rodgers and Hart.

The duo consisted of composer Richard Rogers and lyricist Lorenz Hart.  They worked together on 28 stage musicals and more than 500 songs from 1919 until Hart’s death in 1943.

Lorenz Hart

Rodgers and Hart first met when they were both students at Columbia University in 1919.  They were asked to write for an amateur club show.

After writing together for several years, they produced their first successful Broadway musical, The Garrick Gaieties, in 1925, which introduced their hit song, “Manhattan” and led to a series of successful musicals and films.

Their shows belong to the era when musicals were revue-like and librettos were not much more than excuses for comic turns and music cues. Still, just as their songs were a cut above, so did the team try to raise the standard of the musical form in general. They used dance significantly in their work, using the ballets of George Balanchine.

The duo quickly became the most popular songwriters in America.  From 1925-1931 they wrote fifteen scores for Broadway.

In the early 1930s, they moved to Hollywood to write for films.

Richard Rodgers

Many of their stage musicals such as On Your Toes, Babes in Arms and Pal Joey were made into films.

Time Magazine wrote in 1938 that their success “rests on a commercial instinct that most of their rivals have apparently ignored”.

Rodgers and Hart songs remain favorites of cabaret singers and jazz artists.  Many of their songs such as “Falling in Love with Love”, “Little Girl Blue”, “My Funny Valentine”, “Blue Moon”, and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” remain popular today.

Rodgers and Hart continued to collaborate together until Lorenz Hart died in 1943.  The duo left a large musical body of work for performers to draw from.