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Cy Coleman: 1929-2004
Cy Coleman

Born: June 14, 1929 in New York, NY
Died: November 18, 2004 in New York, NY

Award-winning Broadway composer

by Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2004 Todd S. Jenkins

Composer Cy Coleman, who composed music for a string of Broadway hits (and occasional misses), died of heart failure on November 18, 2004, at the age of 75. Coleman had become ill during the opening night party for Michael Frayn's Broadway show, "Democracy", and died at New York Hospital a few hours later.

The American popular song canon wouldn't be the same without the contributions of Cy Coleman, who penned such timeless classics as "The Best is Yet to Come", "Witchcraft" and "Hey, Look Me Over". Born Seymour Kaufman on June 14, 1929, in New York City, Coleman was a piano prodigy who played Carnegie Hall when he was seven. In his teens he formed his first jazz trio and began composing songs. He began writing for the Broadway stage in 1953 with "John Murray Anderson's Almanac".

Coleman wrote his first full-length score in 1960 for "Wildcat", featuring Lucille Ball. He collaborated with lyricist Carolyn Leigh on that show and Neil Simon's "Little Me", which featured Sid Caesar in multiple roles. Coleman co-wrote material with Dorothy Fields for the blockbuster "Sweet Charity" in 1966, and again on 1973's "Seesaw". His first Tony Award came in 1978 for "On the Twentieth Century", written with Betty Comden and Ralph Green. 1989's "City of Angels" is considered one of his finest scores.

Coleman scored several films, among them "Father Goose", "The Heartbreak Kid" and "The Art of Love". He also wrote several pop songs, such as "Firefly" and "I'm Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life", which were performed by the likes of Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee and Tony Bennett. All totaled, Cy Coleman was the recipient of three Tony Awards, three Emmys, two Grammys, and an Academy Award nomination (for the film version of "Sweet Charity", starring Shirley MacLaine). At the time of his death Coleman was still actively writing scores, including a staging of Wendy Wasserstein's children's book, "Pamela's First Musical".

Cy Coleman is survived by his wife Shelby, daughter Lily Cye, and two sisters.

Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.


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