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Richard Charles Rodgers was an American composer who lived from 1902 to 1979. Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein II was a lyricist, producer, and director of musicals who lived from 1895 to 1960. Each had around 900 songs to his credit, plus other notable achievements, many of which were achieved in their collaboration as the songwriting team of Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote a few songs together when they were quite young and then went their separate ways. Rodgers had a long-term partnership with lyricist Lorenz Hart before returning to work with Hammerstein. They met in 1919 and struggled through to their first hit with a song “Manhattan.” Of their musicals, perhaps the best known today are The Boys from Syracuse and Pal Joey. Their songs, such as “Blue Moon” and “My Funny Valentine” may be more familiar.
Hammerstein worked with a number of collaborators, forming a long collaboration with Otto Harbach and also Jerome Kern, with whom he wrote Showboat. When Rodgers and Hammerstein got back together, their first collaboration was Oklahoma! They went on to create Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. These, with Oklahoma!, were their greatest successes. And all of these musicals, which started off on Broadway, became successful as major motion pictures as well. Their musical Cinderella, a television musical, was revived in 1997 with Brandy and Whitney Houston starring.
Not only were their musicals memorable as a whole, but many of the songs from the movies became standards. These include “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” and the title song from Oklahoma!; “If I Loved You” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel; “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific; “Getting to Know You,” “I Whistle a Happy Tune” and “Shall We Dance” from The King and I; and “Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favorite Things,” “Sixteen going on Seventeen,” and “Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music.
Together, Rodgers and Hammerstein earned 15 Academy Awards, two Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, and 35 Tony Awards. By the end of his career, Rodgers had amassed not only an Oscar, and Emmy, and a Tony, but also a Grammy and a Pulitzer Prize—one of only two people to do so.
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