John Kander who is now 88 years old really needs to finally be recognized and applauded for his life’s work that has entertained us for years. Most recently his music was nominated for five Tony’s for the musical called The Visit. It is only one of the more than 20 Musicals he has written in the past 20 years. He has written about 2,000 songs some of which have never been sung yet. He wrote the music for Cabaret, Chicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman. Just those three have many who can sing along to most of the famous songs in the Musicals.
He started playing piano at age four and saw his first Musical as a boy growing up in Kansas City. He came to New York to study theater at Columbia University and started working on Broadway playing piano for rehearsals for West Side Story and Gypsy starring Ethel Merman. In 1962 his publisher paired him with a lyricist named Fred Ebb. It was the beginning of a 42 year partnership of music. Their first show was called Flora the Red Menace starring the very young Lisa Minelli. Their second musical was Cabaret that won 8 Tony’s and the movie won 8 Oscars. When Chicago opened in 1975 many critics dismissed it. The revival launched in 1976 led to another Oscar winning film. These shows are still running nearly two decades later yet no one knows the composer of the songs.
Their best known song was not written for Broadway. It was called New York New York that now on the birthday party of 100 years for Frank Sinatra has everyone singing that one too. Yet no one knows this composer. Between Lisa Minelli and Frank Sinatra we have been hearing this song too for the past twenty years. That one song did buy the composer a 300 acre property in Upstate New York. After his long time partner died he went back to finish a musical they started together called Curtains. Although he is 88years old he has three new Musicals in the works with a new collaborator. He says, “You keep writing because that is what you do”.
So, this time of year you do find yourselves singing along to Broadway musicals or Frank Sinatra songs and don’t even know who put those great tunes in your head. It is about time we recognized those who were great to us and made us smile. More should be written about those people. We live in a harse cold world now despite all the talking people do to each other on their devices like texting, social media, Twitter and all the Internet shows on You Tube and Periscope and blah, blah even me here spewing my thoughts almost daily. Let’s just remember the guys who make us happy before they die.