Sheldon Harnick, a lyricist who won Grammy and Tony Awards and formed one of the greatest songwriting teams in musical theater history in the 1950s and 1960s with Jerry Bock, has passed away. “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Fiorello!” and “The Apple Tree,” among various other plays, are among their creations. He was 99.
According to his publicist Sean Katz, Harnick died quietly in sleep on Friday in New York City from a natural illness. He was recognized for his subtle, biting wit and deft wordplay.
Actor Jackie Hoffman and writer Cinco Paul of “Schmigadoon!” paid tribute to him online, saying that he was “one of the all-time best musical theater lyricists” and that “like all smart persnickety lyricists he was painful in the tuchus.”
The music and lyrics to “Fiorello!,” which brought Bock and Harnick their first commercial triumph, were recognized in 1960 with a rare Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award, and both. In addition, Harnick received nominations for Tony Awards for “The Apple Tree,” “The Rothschilds,” and “Cyrano — The Musical” in 1967, 1971, and 1994, respectively. Their best work, though, was “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Actor Jack Cassidy brought Bock and Harnick together for the first time in a restaurant following the opening-night performance of “Shangri-La,” a musical for which Harnick had contributed to the lyrics. In 1958, “The Body Beautiful” became the first Harnick-Bock musical.
Harnick, who worked with Bock for 13 years, reflected on their disagreements in an interview with The Associated Press in 2010. “I believe in all of the years that we working together, I only recall one or two confrontations — and those were during the early stages of our relationship, when we were still getting to know one another. Harnick said. He was great to work with once we got through that.
One of the most significant collaborations in Broadway history would be created by them. The songs from “The Body Beautiful” had appealed to the producers Robert E. Hal Prince and Griffith made the decision to develop “Fiorello!,” a musical about a reforming mayor of New York City, and so they enlisted Bock and Harnick to write the music.
The following two songs by Bock and Harnick were “Tenderloin” in 1960 and “She Loves Me” in 1963. Both weren’t big hits, though “She Loves Me” did win a Grammy for best score from a cast CD, but their next one, “Fiddler on the Roof,” became an international phenomenon. In 1965, it won two Tony Awards.