A lyricist writes the text for a song; the term is also applied to those who supply the text to certain other forms of vocal music. As part of the production and performance of a song, the lyricist participates as part of a larger process involving songwriters, arrangers, producers, publishers, and performers. Many notable lyrics worked in fruitful collaboration with a specific ...
[Sister Aimee ]
(b Salford, ON, Oct 9, 1890; d Oakland, CA, Sept 27, 1944). American evangelist, composer, librettist, and hymn writer. Known worldwide as “Sister Aimee,” she founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (FSGC) and built the Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, California. The daughter of a Canadian wheat farmer, she grew up in the Methodist church and the Salvation Army, from which she inherited a strong preference for hymn singing. The Salvation Army also taught her the value of community service, emphasized the potential of women to be active in the ministry, and demonstrated the importance of vigorous and attractive music in worship services, especially brass bands and popular congregational hymns. After the death of her first husband, the preacher and missionary Robert Semple in Hong Kong in 1910, she settled in New York City, where she became active in religious revival work. In 1912 she married businessman Harold McPherson, but her growing interest in pursuing an evangelical ministry led to their divorce in ...
(b New York, NY, March 8, 1947). American singer, lyricist, songwriter, and writer. She grew up in New York, writing several popular songs before the age of 20, including “A Groovy Kind of Love” (1965). She has written songs for many celebrated performers, including Bette Midler, Neil Sedaka, Michael Jackson, and Neil Diamond. A frequent songwriting collaborator with Burt Bacharach, Peter Allen, and Carole King, Sager has also landed several hits as a performer, including “You’re moving out today” from her self-titled album (1977). One of her most popular hits has been “That’s what friends are for” (with Bacharach, 1986), which earned her a Grammy Award for Song of the Year. She has written music for Broadway shows, television, and film, garnering numerous awards including an Oscar for “Arthur’s Theme” (1981) and a Tony for The Boy from Oz (2003...
(b West Point, MS, Feb 5, 1941). American lyricist and vocalist. Barrett Strong first had success as a vocalist with his only hit record as a performer, “Money (That’s what I want)” (1959). Released on Tamla, the song hit no.2 on the R&B charts the next year and became Berry Gordy’s first hit for his Motown enterprise. Strong was hired as staff lyricist at Motown, often writing in partnership with Norman Whitfield, with whom he crafted many of Motown’s top hits. His songwriting spanned from the emotion of “I heard it through the grapevine” (recorded by Marvin Gaye and others) to the antiwar urgency of “War” (Edwin Starr), and other topical numbers such as “Ball of Confusion (That’s what the world is today)” (the Temptations). All of these were crossover R&B and pop hits. With Whitfield, he became deeply involved with writing for the Temptations, contributing the lyrics to such songs as “Cloud Nine,” “Just My Imagination,” and “Papa was a rolling stone,” the last of which won him a Grammy Award. After Motown moved to Los Angeles in ...
(b Chicago, IL, May 31, 1892; d Barcelona, Spain, Nov 19, 1954). American lyricist. Trent, who was African American, most likely studied at Pittsylvania Industrial, Normal, and Collegiate Institute in Virginia. He appears to have managed music publishing houses and was a writer and assistant director for films and the author of Modern Adaptation of Primitive Tones. Trent is known mainly for his work as a lyricist in the 1920s and 30s. His songs were recorded by Bessie Smith and Fletcher Henderson, Bing Crosby and Paul Whiteman, Joe Venuti, Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols and his Five Pennies, Joan Crawford, and others. Collaborators included Clarence Williams (“Outside of that, he’s all right with me”), Duke Ellington (“Blind Man’s Buff,” “Pretty Soft for you”), Fats Waller (“In Harlem’s Araby,” “Georgia Bo-Bo”), Porter Grainger, Willard Robison, Peter DeRose (“Muddy Water,” with Harry Richman), “I just roll along, havin’ my ups and downs”), Louis Alter (“My Kinda Love,” “Gotta feelin’ for you”), Hugo Riesenfeld, and Hoagy Carmichael (“In the Still of the Night,” “Sing it way down low”). Some of his songs appeared in musicals and revues such as ...
revised by Jonas Westover
(b New York, NY, Sept 8, 1896; d New York, NY, July 30, 1983). American lyricist and librettist. He studied at Columbia University, where he was a contemporary of Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II, and served in the US Navy before becoming director of publicity and advertising in 1919 for the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation (from 1924 known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer or MGM). He wrote verse in his spare time, and was asked by Jerome Kern to supply the lyrics for Dear Sir (1924). He also worked with Vernon Duke, Jimmy McHugh, and Ralph Rainger. But he is best remembered for the numerous songs he wrote in collaboration with arthur Schwartz , beginning in 1929 with the revue The Little Show (with “I guess I’ll have to change my plan”). Other collaborations with Schwartz include Three’s a Crowd (1930) and The Band Wagon (1931, containing the hit “Dancing in the Dark”). Their professional relationship extended over a period of more than 30 years to the production of the musical ...
(b Dayton, OH, June 27, 1872; d Dayton, OH, Feb 9, 1906). American poet and lyricist. He was born into a family of former slaves, and although he had the opportunity to attend college through the generosity of white patrons, he decided to pursue a career as a poet and writer. After self-publishing his first collection of poems, he was invited to recite at the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, where he met the composer Will Marion Cook. When he traveled to England in 1897 on a reading tour, he met the African-English composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, who set eight of his poems in the song collection African Romances. In a little over a decade, Dunbar produced six collections of poems, four collections of short stories, four novels, three plays, and the lyrics and librettos for several works written in collaboration with Cook, including Clorindy, the Origin of the Cakewalk...
(b Perth Amboy, NJ, Feb 19, 1766; d New York, NY, Sep 28, 1839). American playwright, librettist, theater manager, historian, and painter. Despite losing his sight in one eye due to an accident, Dunlap became a professional portrait painter in his youth, and he was noted for his paintings of George Washington. In 1784 he traveled to London and studied painting with Benjamin West. Upon his return to the United States in 1787, he began writing plays and became America’s first professional playwright. Over a period of 40 years he translated, adapted, or wrote more than 70 plays, many of which used music by composers such as Benjamin Carr, Alexander Reinagle, Victor Pelissier, and James Hewitt. He was influenced by the plays of German dramatist August von Kotzebue, whose works he translated and made popular in the United States.
Dunlap’s The Archers, or Mountaineers of Switzerland (1796...
Judith A. Sebesta
(b Chicago, IL, Feb 25, 1928; d Beverly Hills, CA, Sept 11, 2009). American librettist. He began his prolific and diverse career at 16 writing for radio. After moving to television in the 1950s, he collaborated with such well-known early television actors as Sid Caesar and Mel Brooks. His career in that medium peaked with M*A*S*H, for which he wrote the pilot and subsequently wrote, produced, and occasionally directed the hit series. His screenwriting credits include Tootsie (1982) and Oh, God! (1977), for which he was nominated for an Oscar. His librettos for A Funny Thing Happened on to the Way to the Forum (1962) and City of Angels (1989) both won Tony Awards. After Gelbart’s death from cancer in 2009, Jack Lemmon, Carl Reiner, and Woody Allen all named him the best American comedy writer they had ever known....