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Article

Bertil H. van Boer

(b Stockholm, Aug 10, 1757; d Vaxhälla, March 17, 1810). Swedish actor, singer and librettist . He made his début as an actor as Count Almaviva in Beaumarchais’ play Le barbier de Séville in 1785 at the New Swedish Theatre, where he became well known for his comic roles and original opera librettos, mostly written for Carl Stenborg’s comic opera. In 1790 he became an administrator at the Royal Dramatic Theatre, a position he held until after Gustavus III’s assassination in 1792. In 1794 he turned to publishing in the provincial town of Linköping. During his career he supplied the texts for more than 65 one-act comedies with music, including the Singspiels Födelsedagen (‘The Birthday’, 1790), Fricorpsen eller Dalkarlarne (‘The Free Corps or Men from Dalacarlia’, 1788) and Marknaden (‘The Market Place’, 1792), all with music by Kraus. His tenor voice was considered expressive but fairly weak; his main talent as an actor lay in his satirical portrayals of figures such as Abbé Vogler in the first of the operas named above....

Article

Jonas Westover

[Salvatore Phillip]

(b Detroit, MI, Feb 16, 1935; d South Lake Tahoe, CA, Jan 5, 1998). American singer, composer, producer, actor, and politician. Bono began his career as a composer; one of his first songs, “Things You Do To Me,” was recorded by Sam Cooke in 1957–8. He eventually made contact with Phil Spector, with whom he worked closely for several years. One of his first successes came in 1963, when his song “Needles and Pins” (co-written with Jack Nitzsche) was recorded by Jackie DeShannon and reached number one on the charts in Canada. The height of his musical career came in the 1960s and 1970s as part of the duo Sonny and Cher. He wrote, produced, and performed on many of their hits, including “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On.” Success with Cher, to whom he was married from 1964 to 1975, led to many appearances on television, including ...

Article

Lise Waxer

[Colón Román jr, William Anthony; ‘El malo’]

(b South Bronx, New York, April 28, 1950). American bandleader, composer, arranger, trombonist, popular singer, producer and actor. Dubbed ‘El malo’ (the ‘bad boy’) of salsa, he began playing the trumpet in 1963 with the teenage band the Dandees. Switching to trombone, he made his professional début at 17 with the album El malo (Fania, 1967). Both as a bandleader and a member of the Fania All-Stars, he quickly moved to the fore of the burgeoning New York salsa scene, cementing the raw, trombone-heavy ‘New York sound’ inspired by earlier artists such as Eddie Palmieri and Mon Rivera. Between 1967 and 1973 he made a series of important recordings with vocalist Hector Lavoe, which included the albums Asalto Navideño I and II (Fania, 1972 and 1973) with cuatro virtuoso Yomo Toro, where traditional Puerto Rican Christmas aguinaldos were fused with salsa. During his second period (...

Article

J. Ryan Bodiford

(b New York, NY, July 30, 1971). American singer, composer, actor, and activist of Puerto Rican descent. Known to his fans as the King of Merengue, he has achieved international recognition for his self-styled brand of urban merengue fusion, which incorporates influences from Latin American genres like samba, salsa, and bomba, while also employing slick pop production techniques and hip-hop aesthetics. Romantic lyrical sentiments and attention to fashion further characterize his professional approach.

Crespo was raised primarily in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. His career began when he was 17 when he joined the Willie Berríos Orchestra in San Juan; however, his major breakthrough came in 1995 when he joined the established Puerto Rican merengue group, Manía. Helping to infuse Manía’s sound with more of a hip-hop edge, Crespo wrote two of the group’s biggest hits, “Linda eh” and “Ojitos bellos.” After three years gaining recognition with the group, he went solo in ...

Article

Ellen Marie Peck

(b New York, NY, Jan 28, 1880; d New York, Jan 4, 1928). American lyricist, librettist, and actress. Born into a theatrical family, she spent her entire life in the theater. A meticulous actress, Donnelly was particularly known for her ability to interpret a role with depth and sensitivity at a rather young age, as she demonstrated with title roles in Candida (1903) and Madame X (1909). However, chronic illness and years of touring took an early toll on Donnelly, forcing her to transition to a writing career in her late 30s. In 1916 Donnelly penned the libretto for an Americanized German operetta, Flora Bella. She soon teamed up with composer sigmund Romberg , with whom she wrote some of the most successful operettas of the 1920s. Donnelly and Romberg enjoyed a close friendship and a symbiotic collaborative process, which lay behind the overwhelming success of ...

Article

Robert Stevenson

(b Mount Vernon, OH, Oct 29, 1815; d Mount Vernon, June 28, 1904). American composer and minstrel performer. He had little formal education, but in early youth learned popular tunes from his musical mother and taught himself to play the fiddle. At the age of 13 he became an apprentice printer and in 1834 enlisted in the US Army. At Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, he became an expert fifer and drummer, publishing his own Fifer’s and Drummer’s Guide in 1862 in cooperation with George Brace. On receiving his discharge from the army on 8 July 1835 he joined a Cincinnati circus, for one member of which he wrote the words of his first ‘black song’ (to the tune of Gumbo Chaff). In 1840–42 he toured with the Angervine and other circuses as a blackface banjoist and singer.

In November 1842 Emmett and Frank Brower (1823–74), a blackface dancer and singer who was the first black impersonator to play the bones, formed a fiddle and bones duo in New York. From ...

Article

Holly George-Warren

[Smith, Lucille Wood; Smith (Fox), Frances Octavia]

(b Uvalde, TX, Oct 31, 1912; d Apple Valley, CA, Feb 7, 2001). American Western-music and popular singer-songwriter and actor. As Frances Fox, the name used in her first marriage, she began singing jazz, blues, and pop tunes on radio stations in Memphis in 1929. In May 1935 she took the stage name Dale Evans as staff vocalist at WHAS in Louisville, Kentucky. She moved to WFFA in Dallas, and by 1940 she was singing with the Anson Weeks Orchestra in Chicago, where she joined the CBS affiliate station WBBM. In 1941 Evans signed with 20th-Century Fox, playing bit parts in Hollywood musicals. She became a vocalist on several national radio shows, including “The Chase and Sanborn Hour” (1941), “The Jack Carson Show” (1944), and “The Camel Caravan” (1945). In 1943 she signed with Republic and, the following year, co-starred with roy Rogers, whom she married in ...

Article

Ronald J. Zank

(b Brooklyn, NY, June 6, 1954). American performer, playwright and librettist. Fierstein grew up in New York and worked as an actor; he also pursued his interest in painting and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He was both lead actor and playwright for Torch Song Trilogy, which originated off-off Broadway before transferring to off-Broadway and finally to Broadway (1982). He wrote the libretto for the musical adaptation of the French play and film La Cage Aux Folles (1983, music and lyrics by Jerry Herman), about a gay couple dealing with their son’s marriage into a conservative family. Fierstein also crafted the book for the short-lived Legs Diamond, a production that featured the songs and performance of Peter Allen as the title gangster. As a performer Fierstein originated the role of plus-sized mother Edna Turnblad in the musical ...

Article

(b Los Herreras, Nuevo León, México Dec 16, 1921; d Monterrey, Nuevo León, México, Sept 1, 2003). Mexican actor, singer, songwriter, and film director. Eulalio “Piporro” González Ramírez is best known for developing an idiosyncratic style of parodying Northern Mexican, or norteño, identity, lifestyle, and language through music and comedic acting for radio, stage, and film. His career spanned 60 years. He began as a newspaper reporter and radio personality in Monterrey and in US-Mexico border towns when he landed a role on the radio comedy, Ahí viene Martín Corona (Here Comes Martín Corona) produced in México City and starring the popular singer and actor Pedro Infante. At age 28, he played Infante’s elderly sidekick in 19th-century northern México where his bumbling character, “Piporro,” helped solve conflicts and dustups in local ranch life. The show’s success led to the 1951 film of the same name starring González and Infante. González enjoyed countless roles as “Piporro” in classic ...

Article

(b New York, NY, Dec 2, 1914; d New York, NY, Oct 24, 2002). American lyricist, librettist, and actor. He sustained a lifelong writing partnership with Betty Comden. Among their joint works were the musicals Wonderful Town (1953) and Bells Are Ringing (1956), and the film script ...