Fans of Broadway musicals were likely devastated to learn of the loss Friday of a veritable “giant” in that particular genre who, for all intents and purposes, virtually reinvented American musicals over the second half of the 20th century.
That would be the legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, who died Friday at the age of 91, according to Classic FM, a website devoted to classical music.
Though Sondheim has dozens of famous and well-liked musical works to his credit, arguably his most popular and well-known is West Side Story, his first big hit on Broadway that premiered in 1957. Sondheim wrote lyrics for the musical.
Cause of death unknown
The news of Sondheim’s death was first reported by The New York Times after the outlet was informed of the composer’s passing by his personal friend and attorney, F. Richard Pappas.
Sondheim was said to have died early Friday morning at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, mere hours after he had celebrated Thanksgiving with some friends.
It remains unclear how or why Sondheim suddenly passed away. Pappas told the Times that his friend had not been suffering from any known illnesses and had been doing well.
In its extensive coverage of the life and works of Sondheim, the Times made note of the fact that the heralded composer and lyricist had essentially been trained in the craft as a teen under the tutelage of famed musical composer Oscar Hammerstein, as well as, to a lesser extent, Hammerstein’s equally famed longtime partner, Richard Rodgers.
That formal training, paired with Sondheim’s own innovations, resulted in works that have seen the composer and lyricist awarded some of the most prestigious recognition one can receive in the business.
According to Classic FM, over the course of his career, Sondheim had received “eight Grammy awards, nine Tony awards, one Academy Award, and a Pulitzer Prize.”
In addition, he was even bestowed with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 by then-President Barack Obama, according to Fox News, in honor of his many achievements and undeniable impact on musicals and theater.
Remembering a legend
Tributes to Sondheim’s greatness have already begun to flow from his many fans, friends, and fellow composers in the wake of his death.
The man will certainly be missed, but his legacy and the impact he had on Broadway and the genre of musicals will undoubtedly live on and be remembered forever.