FIDDLER Composer Jerry Bock Dies at 81
BroadwayWorld.com has learned that FIDDLER ON THE ROOF composer Jerry Bock passed away last night, at the age of 81. This comes just one week after the passing of FIDDLER bookwriter Joseph Stein.
The site's thoughts and prayers go out to Bock's friends, family and loved ones.
The composer of the Broadway successes Fiddler on the Roof, Mr. Wonderful and Fiorello! was born Jerrold Lewis Bock in New Haven, Connecticut on November 23, 1928.
His family moved to Flushing, New York where Bock studied the piano from an early age and began writing music for various shows while still in high school. His first success came during his high school years, in the form of the musical comedy "My Dream". As a senior at the University of Wisconsin, he scored the musical comedy, "Big as Life," based on the legend of Paul Bunyon, and put on by Haresfoot, an all-male college musical society. Bock's collaborator was a fellow student, Larry Holofcener, who was to become a co-worker on Bock's early scores. "Big as Life," won first prize in an annual university show competition, sponsored by BMI, the performing rights organization. During the summer breaks, the pair worked at Camp Taminent in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains. The program called for the preparation of an original one-act weekly revue for 10 consecutive weeks.
Returning to New York following college, Bock and Holofcener were fortunate in being selected to audition their skills for Max Liebman, a producer of early music variety shows for television. They passed the test and joined the staff of "The Admiral Broadway Revue," which later became "Your Show of Shows," starring one of the world's premiere comedy duos, Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. The young writers wrote songs for the stars as well as the chorus and the Corps de Ballet.
During the early 50s period, an introduction to the very well-known music publisher, Tommy Valando, resulted in Bock's debut Broadway vehicle, the score for "Catch a Star." This was followed by song contributions to Tallulah Bankhead's "Ziegfeld Follies," some pop-styled songs for Sarah Vaughan and Bob Manning and a score for a Columbia Pictures short, titled "Wonders of Manhattan," which won an honorable mention at The Cannes Film Festival. This highly frenetic period reached its peak, finally, when Jule Styne assigned the score of "Mr. Wonderful," which was to star Sammy Davis, Jr., to Jerry Bock, Larry Holofcener, and ultimately to George David Weiss as well. Two songs from that score became standards, "Mr. Wonderful," and "Too Close for Comfort."
Two years later, the fruitful team of Bock and Sheldon Harnick was born, yielding eventually, five Broadway show scores in seven years, which stands as a record. The shows included "The Body Beautiful," "Fiorello" (winner of Broadway's triple crown: The Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award, The New York Drama Critics Circle Award and The Pulitzer Prize in Drama); "Tenderloin," "She Loves Me," "The Apple Tree," "The Rothschilds," and "Fiddler on the Roof," honored then as winner of the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, The Page One Award of the American Newspaper Guild, and nine Tony Awards, including "Best Musical."
Jerry Bock also contributed one song per weekly broadcast of "Sing Something Special," a New York City Board of Education program on WNYE, which culminated in a special children's album for Golden Records. Jerry Bock is also an esteemed Inductee into the Theater Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.