Jerry Ross was born Jerold Rosenberg in the Bronx, New York City, in 1936 to Russian immigrant parents. He spent most of his early years in the Yiddish theater where he sang and acted under the name of the “Boy Star”. Ross studied at New York University before connecting with Richard Adler. His years collaborating with Adler, whom he met in 1950, were his most prolific and successful.
Tragically, Ross passed away in 1955 at the age of 29 from complications of a lung disease called bronchiectasis. Even though is life was short, however, his legacy includes an incredible 250 songs and additional theater work! The Songwriters Hall of Fame entered Ross into their rolls posthumously in 1982 as tribute to his legacy.
Much like Jerry Ross, Richard Adler’s most prolific and successful years were during their years of collaboration. Born in 1921, Adler grew up in a musical family—his father, a concert pianist, was also a teacher of music (his most well-known student was renowned composer Aaron Copland). He graduated from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 1943 and became an officer in the naval reserve during World War II.
His career after his years with Jerry Ross were less successful when it came to the stage (he never had another hit musical), but no less impressive. He continued to write musicals and composed several songs that climbed the charts, including the 1958 hit recorded by Doris Day “Everybody Loves a Lover” which he wrote with Robert Allen. His later work includes the musicals A Mother’s Kisses and Kwamina, the latter of which he wrote as an appeal for racial tolerance during the years of Apartheid in South Africa, neither of which did very well.
Television commercials and musicals for television became a part of Adler’s works. His made-for-TV musicals included the well-received Little Women, Gift of the Magi, and Olympus. His commercials won the National Advertising Association’s Best Commercial of the Year award three years in a row.
Adler also served as the White House Consultant for the Arts during the presidencies of Kennedy and Johnson, staging and producing a number of shows as entertainment at the White House. He also served as trustee for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Among other shows and pieces of music, he wrote several critically acclaimed symphonic works and ballets.
Richard Adler passed away in 2012 at the age of 90.
The Works of Jerry Ross and Richard Adler
Unlike many other musical duo powerhouses of the day, Ross and Adler truly collaborated on their shows—they worked together on both music and lyrics. Although they only wrote a handful of musicals together between 1950 and 1955, they were all huge, and award-winning, successes that are still loved today. Their musicals include John Murray Anderson’s Almanac, The Pajama Game, which, among others, won two Tony Awards, and Damn Yankees. Songs from these musicals topped the charts when famous performers of the day made recordings:
- “Rags to Riches” recorded by Tony Bennett
- “Steam Heat” recorded by Patti Page
- “Hernando’s Hideaway” recorded by Archie Bleyer
- “Hey There” recorded by Rosemary Clooney
- “Heart” recorded by Eddie Fisher
- “Whatever Lola Wants” recorded by Sarah Vaughan
Who can forget the iconic scene from Damn Yankees where Gwen Verdon as Lola sings to Tab Hunter as Joe Hardy:
So there you have our musicians of the month. Follow along on theMinnich Music Facebook page for more trivia and videos through the month. And whether you sing or play the piano, taking voice lessons or piano lessons from the Minnich Music studio in Albuquerque can help you expand your repertoire to include music from Richard Adler and Jerry Ross!