He had sssssss-steam heat. Broadway composer-lyricist Richard Adler died yesterday in Southhampton, at the age of 90. And even if the name doesn't ring a bell, trust us, you know his work. Just a few of the songs he wrote over his long career? "Whatever Lola Wants," "Steam Heat," "Hey, There," "Hernando's Hideaway," and "Everybody Loves a Lover." Oh, and you know the famous Madison Square Garden extravaganza where Marilyn Monroe sang "Happy Birthday" to JFK? Adler produced and staged it.
Born in New York City in 1921, Adler graduated from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1943 and served in the Naval Reserver during World War II. In 1955 he and Jerry Ross wrote the music and lyrics to the The Pajama Game—possibly the only successful light comedy about labor relations in America?—and won the best musical Tony for their troubles. After that the pair worked on one of the best shows about baseball ever written, Damn Yankees, cursing any girl named Lola to a lifetime of 'whatever you want' jokes (and earning the pair another best musical Tony). Sadly, Ross died a few months after the show opened at the young age of 29.
After that Adler went on to do a variety of things including writing commercial jingles, symphonic works and ballets, producing events (like that JFK birthday party) and plays (like The Sin of Pat Muldoon and the musical Rex) and more. He is survived by his wife, Susan Ivory; his children, Andrew Adler, Katherine Adler and Charles Shipman; and three grandchildren, Damien and Scarlett Adler and Lola Jane Shipman.
He'll be missed. In the meantime, below are a few of our his classics.
To start, here's the incomparable Gwen Verdon as Lola in Damn Yankees:
And here's Doris Day singing the reprise of "Hey There" in the film of The Pajama Game:
Here's Day is singing "Everybody Loves A Lover" which Adler wrote with Robert Allen after the death of Jerry Ross:
And here's "Steam Heat" from The Pajama Game (choreography look familiar? It should - that's Fosse for you):
And finally, a half century later this one still needs no introduction: