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Jule Styne (Julius Kerwin Stein)
born in London, England, composed during the Modern period
Born in London in 1905, Julius K. Stein had emigrated to Chicago by 1912, and appeared as a featured soloist with the symphony by his early teens. After being rejected from classical performance because of the size of his hands, Styne began writing songs as consolation, and attended Chicago Musical College while organizing several jazz bands during the 1930s. He worked as a vocal coach in New York for several years, then traveled to Hollywood in 1937 to perform a similar function, but soon diversified into composing arrangements for background music. His first major composition, written with Frederick Loewe, was "I Don't Want to Walk Without You," taken from 1942's Sweater Girl and later recorded by Bing Crosby and the Harry James Orchestra. He was introduced to Sammy Cahn by a movie producer, and the pair's relationship soon began to gel.
Writing film and album songs for Frank Sinatra -- who had gotten to know Cahn during his tenure in the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra -- during the mid-'40s, Styne and Cahn became one of the most successful teams in the business, as a variety of stars gained the upper reaches of the Hit Parade with such hits as "I've Heard That Song Before" (Harry James), "I'll Walk Alone" (Doris Day), "Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week)" (Sinatra, Sammy Kaye, Frankie Carle), "It's Been a Long, Long Time" (Bing Crosby, Harry James, Charlie Spivak), "Things We Did Last Summer" (Sinatra), "Five Minutes More" (Sinatra, Tex Beneke, the Three Suns, Bob Crosby) and "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" (Vaughn Monroe, Woody Herman, Connee Boswell, Bob Crosby). As well, Cahn and Styne wrote scores for several movies, plus the 1947 Broadway musical High Button Shoes.
Though successful, High Button Shoes was Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn's last collaboration for over five years. While Cahn journeyed to Hollywood, writing songs for Mario Lanza and Doris Day, Styne stayed on Broadway and wrote Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with lyricist Leo Robin. The 1949 production became a large success, featuring Carol Channing in the song that became a staple of her act, "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." An ongoing collaboration with Betty Comden and Adolph Green began with Two on the Aisle in 1951 and Bells Are Ringing six years later. One of his most celebrated works, 1959's Gypsy, was a collaboration with Stephen Sondheim, and brought to the stage "Everything's Coming Up Roses," "Together, Wherever We Go" and the striptease anthem "Let Me Entertain You."
Though Styne's subsequent shows of the early '60s -- Do Re Mi, Subways Are for Sleeping, Fade In-Fade Out -- couldn't match Gypsy in popularity, each added at least one song to the popular repertoire. In 1964, Styne hit upon his greatest production, working with lyricist Bob Merrill on a show based on the life of Fanny Brice. Producer Ray Stark -- the son-in-law of Brice herself -- had searched for ten years to find someone to do justice to Brice's incredible legend, and once he found it in Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl became a hit. Styne and Merrill popularized "People," "I'm the Greatest Star," and "Don't Rain on My Parade." (The original Fanny Brice favorite "My Man" was included only on the film adaptation.)
Styne resumed working with Comden and Green with 1967's Hallelujah, Baby!, a difficult attempt to comment upon the history of African-American involvement in show business. After the moderate failures Darling of the Day and Buried Alive, Styne once more began working with old friend Sammy Cahn. Their 1970 production Look to the Lilies was a complete failure, though Styne resumed his stride two years later with Sugar (an adaptation of the 1959 film favorite Some Like It Hot) and Lorelei (more a revival of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes than a new production). He spent time during the 1980s teaching at New York University. ~ John Bush, Rovi
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