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Sheldon Harnick
Sheldon Harnick.jpg
Background information
Born (1924-04-30) April 30, 1924 (age 92)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Genres Musical theater
Occupation(s) Lyricist
Years active 1949–present

Sheldon Harnick (born April 30, 1924) is an American lyricist best known for his collaborations with composer Jerry Bock on hit musicals such as Fiddler on the Roof.

Harnick began his career writing words and music to comic songs in musical revues. One of these, "The Merry Minuet", was popularized by the Kingston Trio.[1] It is in the caustic style usually associated with Tom Lehrer and is sometimes incorrectly attributed to him.

Early life[edit]

Harnick was born to American Jewish parents and grew up in the Chicago neighborhood of Portage Park.[2] Yiddish was rarely spoken in the home, mostly as a way of telling secrets between parents.[3]

Musical Career[edit]

Harnick began writing music while still in Carl Schurz High School in Chicago, IL. After his Army service, he graduated from the Northwestern University School of Music (1946-1949) with a Bachelor of Music Degree, and worked with various orchestras in the Chicago area. He then moved to New York City and wrote for many musicals and revues.[4] He was friends with Charlotte Rae from college, and he went to see her one night at the Village Vanguard where she was singing a revue. Yip Harburg, who was one of Harnick's idols, heard she was singing a song of his and decided to come. He told Harnick that he enjoyed his writing, and urged him to continue. He advised Harnick to work with a large number of composers. He also counseled him to write character and comic songs, not ballads, for Broadway. Harnick followed both tips. Harburg gave him that advice because his old partner, Jay Gorney, had told them ballads were the key to success on Broadway.[5]

Around 1956, Harnick met Jerry Bock, forming "what is arguably the most important musical partnership of the '60s." [6] Their first musical was The Body Beautiful, running for only 60 performances in 1958, but Fiorello! (1959) ran for 795 performances and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Fiddler on the Roof (1964) "became one of the most cherished of all Broadway musicals."[6]

Harnick wrote the libretto for the opera Coyote Tales, with music by Henry Mollicone, which received its world premiere at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City in March 1998.[7] He wrote the book, music and lyrics to the musical Dragons, which was performed in 2003 at the Luna Stage (Montclair, New Jersey).[8] He wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the book with Norton Juster for the musical The Phantom Tollbooth, based on the book by Juster. The musical premiered at The Kennedy Center in 2007.[9]

Stage productions[edit]

Honors and awards[edit]

  • In 1960, Harnick, Bock and Jerome Weidman (book) won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for Fiorello!.[11]
  • Sheldon Harnick has won three Tony Awards. In 1960, he, Bock and Weidman tied with Rodgers and Hammerstein for best musical; that year, both Fiorello! and The Sound of Music won. And in 1965, Bock and Harnick's Fiddler on the Roof won for both Best Musical and Best Composer and Lyricist.[12]
  • In honor of Harnick's vast influence on American music, on May 19, 1984 he was awarded the University of Pennsylvania Glee Club Award of Merit.[13] Beginning in 1964, this award "established to bring a declaration of appreciation to an individual each year that has made a significant contribution to the world of music and helped to create a climate in which our talents may find valid expression."
  • Sheldon Harnick was honored at the Twenty-Sixth Annual William Inge Theatre Festival located in Independence, Kansas, in 2007.[14]
  • Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock were presented with the 18th Annual York Theatre Company's prestigious Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre in 2009.[15]


  1. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 19 - Blowin' in the Wind: Pop discovers folk music. [Part 2] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. Retrieved 2011-04-29. 
  2. ^ "Words into Song". Northwestern. Retrieved February 12, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Conversation with Sheldon Harnick". Connecticut Jewish Ledger. Retrieved February 12, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Biography of Sheldon Harnick". MTI Shows. Retrieved March 2, 2012. 
  5. ^ http://www.playbill.com/features/article/183726-Sheldon-Harnick-Approaching-90-Fiddler-Lyricist-Recalls-a-Mentor/pg2?tsrc=nx
  6. ^ a b "Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick". Broadway:The American Musical. PBS.org. Retrieved March 2, 2012. 
  7. ^ "'Coyote Tales' listing" henrymollicone.com, accessed March 4, 2012
  8. ^ Jones, Kenneth."Sheldon Harnick's Musical, 'Dragons', Roars in NJ Starting Nov. 13; Harnick in the House for Opening" playbill.com, November 13, 2003
  9. ^ "'The Phantom Tollbooth' listing" kennedy-center.org, accessed March 4, 2012
  10. ^ Leeds, Ryan. "Interview With Sheldon Harnick: A “Fiddler” at the York" manhattandigest.com, February 11, 2014
  11. ^ "The Pulitzer Prize, Drama". Pulitzer.org. Retrieved March 2, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Sheldon Harnick". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved March 2, 2012. 
  13. ^ "The University of Pennsylvania Glee Club Award of Merit Recipients". Archived from the original on 2012-02-09. 
  14. ^ "The William Inge Theatre Festival". Retrieved March 2, 2012. 
  15. ^ Hetrick, Adam (November 23, 2009). "Bock and Harnick Receive Hammerstein Award Nov. 23; Cook, Kuhn, Kudisch and More Will Sing". Playbill. Retrieved March 2, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheldon_Harnick — Please support Wikipedia.
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9654 news items


Tue, 19 Apr 2016 07:20:00 -0700

Tony Award-winning lyricist Sheldon Harnick and multiple Tony-nominated director Marshall W. Mason will be this year's recipients of the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. The honor will be presented at the 70th Annual Tony ...
Broadway World
Thu, 28 Apr 2016 13:28:27 -0700

A concert celebrating the lyrics of Sheldon Harnick, with narration by Michael Lasser and performances by Cindy Miller and Alan Jones, is slated for Sunday, May 15, 2016 at 3 PM at The New York Society Library, 53 East 79th Street (just east of Madison ...

Washington Post

Washington Post
Tue, 03 May 2016 06:01:34 -0700

Winner-take-all may be a term more commonly associated with primary elections. But if the Tony Award nominations announced Tuesday in New York are any indication, that phrase could very well apply on the night of the awards ceremony in June, to the ...


Mon, 02 May 2016 11:18:15 -0700

The Tony Awards Administration Committee announced April 19 that two-time Tony Award-winning lyricist Sheldon Harnick and multiple Tony-nominated director Marshall W. Mason will be this year's recipients of the Special Tony Award for Lifetime ...


Mon, 02 May 2016 07:48:43 -0700

Laura Benanti, who stars in the current Broadway revival of She Loves Me, drew attention to a ringing phone during a matinee performance April 30. The phone went off during her performance of “Will He Like Me.” At first, the actress softly said “hello ...
The Catholic Transcript
Mon, 02 May 2016 19:37:30 -0700

What has always made “She Loves Me” appealing is the late Jerry Bock's soaring music and Sheldon Harnick's infectious bright and witty lyrics. A few years before they collaborated on “She Loves Me,” Mr. Bock and Mr. Harnick had won a Pulitzer Prize for ...

PBS NewsHour

PBS NewsHour
Sun, 20 Mar 2016 09:38:33 -0700

More than 50 years after the Broadway premiere of "Fiddler on the Roof," the musical's universal story continues to resonate with audiences seeing its fifth revival, which opened in December. NewsHour's Zachary Green sits down with the musical's ...
Daily Democrat
Sun, 01 May 2016 08:56:15 -0700

Mollicone was in Texas last week for the world premiere of "Lady Bird," a one-act opera based on the life of former first lady Lady Bird Johnson, which Mollicone collaborated on with librettist Sheldon Harnick. The premiere at Texas State University at ...

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