Alex Timbers Pens Tribute to Michael Friedman; Shares 5 Heart Breaking & Soaring Songs
As BroadwayWorld sadly reported on Saturday, Obie Award-winning BLOODY BLOODY Andrew Jackson composer and lyricist Michael Friedman has died at the young age of 41 due to HIV/AIDS related complications.
Friedman's frequent collaborator Alex Timbers has penned a heartfelt tribute his friend, which you can read in full below...
After spending a good deal of yesterday devastated over the loss of the great Michael Friedman, I sat down in the evening and listened to Michael's legacy -- the incredible songs he's passed down to us and to the generations that will follow. While Michael was certainly beloved by the small quarter of those who follow progressive and intellectually curious musical theater, I have a strong feeling that his songs will age increasingly well and that we'll be hearing more and more of his scores in the coming years.
If you're not familiar with Michael's songs but are curious about his legacy, I would encourage you to take 15 minutes out of your day today on Spotify to listen to five songs that equally make my heart break and soar and, collectively, make me fall down on my knees in awe of his brilliance: "Middle Spaces" from Fortress of Solitude (his and my favorite score of his), "Change of Heart" and "Are You A Man" from Love's Labour's Lost, "Lost Horizon" from Live, Gone Missing at Joe's Pub (this is the moment I completely lost my mind for him as a young theater artist new to New York), and "The Saddest Song" from Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.
The other two other things that I think are worth mentioning from the perspective of a close collaborator of his -- since so many other people in the past 24 hours have eloquently described his wit, his humor, his boundless energy, his kindness, and his loyalty -- are the following two facts that I find quite particular to Michael.
Almost all of his songs were short. Very short. Like under two minutes short. It took me a while to understand why you'd rarely find a song from Michael that went A-B-A-B-C-B. He'd almost never have a double chorus at the end of the song. He'd almost never modulate. I challenge you to find a song with a button. Because as bold a personality as he was, Michael had a complete modesty to his writing. Though he often aped pop song structure, the idea of asking for applause for his work was anathema to him. Far be it from him to write a song that ended with a repeated chorus, a modulation in between the last two choruses, or a button. He was truly a humble person. Who writes a Broadway debut with a score that's only 26 minutes long and avoids all opportunities to ask for applause? Someone who doesn't want to overstay his welcome and who doesn't want to assume audience approbation. To me, it was a crazy point of view because I loved his music but it was typical of the humility that Michael always trafficked in with his work.
The second thing you'll consistently notice in Michael's shows was that he cared about the actors more than the score. As a director, you're always more interested in the acting chops of a prospective company member, more than whom can most seamlessly switch between their head and chest voices. But you anticipate a healthy argument in opposition from the composer. Never so with Michael. He was always the first to raise his hand in favor of the most exciting actor that came before him. Michael's number one concern about a show of his was the humanity of the piece, never about showing off his score in the best technical light. He always felt his score would be best represented by the actor that brought the most insight and truth to his songs. And boy did he work with great actors time and time again.
To say he'll be greatly missed is an understatement. If you haven't already, listen to those five songs I mention above and tell me his death isn't a tragedy for the American Musical Theater.
Love to you, dear Michael.
"The song makes a space."