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Also Known As: Seymour Kaufman Died: November 18, 2004
Born: June 14, 1929 Cause of Death: died of heart failure
Birth Place: Bronx, New York, USA Profession: composer, arranger, producer, pianist

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A classically-trained child prodigy and concert pianist turned popular songwriter and Broadway tunesmith, Coleman made his Carnegie Hall debut at age seven and by his late teens had become somewhat of a society darling, performing jazz piano in sophisticated New York nightclubs. By the 1950s, he turned to composing pop standards (with lyricists Joseph McCarthy Jr, Bob Hilliard and Hal David) for the likes of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole and ran his own New York nightspot, The Playroom. Teaming with clever lyricist Carolyn Leigh, Coleman wrote such hit songs as "Witchcraft" and "Firefly" before the pair composed their first two Broadway efforts--the spirited Lucille Ball vehicle "Wildcat" (1960), which produced the showstopper "Hey, Look Me Over", and the brilliantly brash Neil Simon musical satire "Little Me" (1962), with its seductive hits "I've Got Your Number" and "Real Live Girl" and its tour de force performance by TV star Sid Caesar as all seven male characters. In 1966, Coleman wed his rhymic, upbeat jazzy scores to the words of veteran lyricist Dorothy Fields for the bouncy, insinuating score to "Sweet Charity" (based on Fellini's film, "Nights of Cabiria" and filmed by Bob Fosse in his...

A classically-trained child prodigy and concert pianist turned popular songwriter and Broadway tunesmith, Coleman made his Carnegie Hall debut at age seven and by his late teens had become somewhat of a society darling, performing jazz piano in sophisticated New York nightclubs. By the 1950s, he turned to composing pop standards (with lyricists Joseph McCarthy Jr, Bob Hilliard and Hal David) for the likes of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole and ran his own New York nightspot, The Playroom.

Teaming with clever lyricist Carolyn Leigh, Coleman wrote such hit songs as "Witchcraft" and "Firefly" before the pair composed their first two Broadway efforts--the spirited Lucille Ball vehicle "Wildcat" (1960), which produced the showstopper "Hey, Look Me Over", and the brilliantly brash Neil Simon musical satire "Little Me" (1962), with its seductive hits "I've Got Your Number" and "Real Live Girl" and its tour de force performance by TV star Sid Caesar as all seven male characters.

In 1966, Coleman wed his rhymic, upbeat jazzy scores to the words of veteran lyricist Dorothy Fields for the bouncy, insinuating score to "Sweet Charity" (based on Fellini's film, "Nights of Cabiria" and filmed by Bob Fosse in his 1969 directorial debut) and in 1973 for "Seesaw", the less than successful--but nonetheless catchy--musical version of William Gibson's play "Two for the Seesaw". Subsequently, he employed a variety of styles from country and western to blues for the intimate wife-swapping musical "I Love My Wife" (1977) and composed the bumptuous circus musical "Barnum" (1980), which also marked his debut as a Broadway producer. Coleman has won three Tony Awards: for the comic operetta "On the Twentieth Century" (1978; with lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green); for his brilliant jazz-inflected score for the witty and stylish film noir musical "City of Angels" (1990; with David Zippel); and for the folksy, glitzy pastiche score for "The Will Rogers Follies" (1991; again with Comden and Green). In 1996, he released an album of songs for a proposed musical, "The Life" that included tracks by Liza Minnelli and George Burns. With lyrics by Ira Gassman, it is the story of the denizens of NYC's 42nd Street, including prostitutes and pimps. This, in turn, led to a full-scale Broadway mounting the following year. While the show had its share of fans, it only managed a run of just over a year. The composer's next full-scale stage musical wasn't produced until the 21st Century, and then in Amsterdam. Coleman wrote the music for "Grace, The Musical" (2001), a fictionalized biography of actress-turned-princess Grace Kelly.

Coleman composed his first film score for "Father Goose" (1964), which included the song "Pass Me By", and composed the scores for a trio of Sydney Lumet-directed features: "Garbo Talks" (1984), "Power" (1986) and "Family Business" (1989).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1933:
Got first piano at age four when tenant in building mother owned skipped out on rent and left it behind
1935:
Played at Steinway Hall and entered a competition at Town Hall at age six
1936:
Made Carnegie Hall debut at age seven
:
Performed in Catskills when father moved there to build houses
1946:
Wrote first classical work, "Sonata in Seven Flats" (Carnegie Hall debut of work was cancelled) at age 17
:
Composed three preludes
1948:
Began performing as a pianist in US nightclubs
1949:
Composed music for TV show, "The S.S. Holiday"
:
Joined with pop songwriter Joseph McCarthy Jr.; wrote their first pop song, "Why Try to Change Me Now", recorded by Frank Sinatra; then wrote "I'm Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life", recorded by Nat King Cole
:
Member of house band, "The Cy Coleman Trio" on "The Andy and Della Russell Show"
:
Wrote pop hits with lyricists Bob Hilliard and Hal David
:
Acquired own night club, The Playroom in the mid-1950s
:
Formed own music publishing firm, Notable Music
1953:
Broadway composing debut: contributed some musical sketches (including the song "Tin Pan Alley") to the revue "John Murray Anderson's Almanac"
1957:
Wrote first incidental music for Broadway, the non-musical play, "Compulsion" (also musical director)
1960:
Composed score for first book musical, "Wildcat" (with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh)
1962:
Reteamed with lyricist Carolyn Leigh on "Little Me", adapted from Patrick Dennis' novel by Neil Simon
1964:
First feature as music director, "Father Goose"; also contributed song "Pass Me By"
:
Became music director for TV's "The Les Crane Show"
1966:
Reunited with book writer Simon and lyricist Leigh for "Sweet Charity", a musical inspired by Fellini's "The Nights of Cabiria"
1973:
Returned to Broadway as composer of "Seesaw", a musical based on the play "Two for the Seesaw"
1974:
Wrote music and special material for the CBS special "Shirley MacLaine: If They Could See Me Now"; received Emmy Award
1975:
With Fred Ebb, produced "Gypsy in My Soul", a TV variety special starring Shirley MacLaine; picked up second Emmy for writing the special
1976:
Provided special material and served as music arranger on McLaine's concert tour which included a stint on Broadway
1977:
Scored a hit on Broadway with "I Love My Wife", a musical about swapping spouses
1978:
Collaborated with Betty Comden & Adolph Green on the Broadway musical "On the Twentieth Century"; won first Tony Award
1980:
Debut as Broadway producer, "Barnum"; also composed the score to Michael Stewart's lyrics
1984:
Scored the film "Garbo Talks", helmed by Sydney Lumet
1986:
Provided the dramatic underscore for "Power", directed by Lumet
1989:
Wrote third film score for a Lumet-directed project, "Family Business"
1989:
Received second Tony for the score to "City of Angels" (lyrics by David Zippel)
1991:
Picked up third Tony Award for second collaboration with Comden & Green, "The Will Rogers Follies"
1997:
Co-wrote the book and composed the music to "The Life", a musical about the denizens of NYC's 42nd Street in the 1970s
2001:
Provided the score for "Grace, The Musical", a fictionalized stage biography of Grace Kelly; opened in Amsterdam
2002:
Received Carnegie Hall tribute in evening of compositions performed by the New York Pops (January 18)
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

High School of Music and Art: New York , New York - 1947
New York City College of Music: New York , New York - 1948

Notes

Coleman does not celebrate his birthday, preferring to celebrate Flag Day instead.

"I'm an individualist, I feel, my own kind of man. What created Cy Coleman? It's playing in jazz clubs, doing the society bit, accompanying people, being a concert pianist. I think you'd have to put it all in a Cuisinart and mix that up and out would come Cy Coleman."--Cy Coleman ("Notes on Broadway", 1987)

Discussing the diversity of his musical styles, Cy Coleman explains: If I have a song that becomes a hit, chances are I won't go and write that song again. A lot of people continue along the same style and milk it and people will ask you to do that. Somehow that perversity in me remains, and I'll go off to the other side of something." ("Notes on Broadway", 1987)

"I think of myself first and last as a professional pianist"--Coleman to Wilfred Sheed in TIME, February 24, 1992

Coleman has appeared with the Milwaukee Symphony, the Syracuse Symphony Pops, the Detroit Symphony, the Indianapolis Symphony, the San Antonio, and the Fort Worth Orchestras as well as many others.

Coleman is a Westminster, Capitol, Columbia, M.G.M. and London Records recording artist.

Coleman received the LaGuardia Memorial Award (1961)

He is president of Notable Records Company and Notable Music Company.

He was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1992.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Shelby Brown. Together since c. 1992; married on October 1, 1997.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Max Kaufman. Carpenter, cabinet maker. Immigrant from Bessarabia (between Romania and Russia).
mother:
Ida Kaufman. Landlord. Immigrant from Bessarabia.

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