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27 November 2021

Stephen Sondheim, Composer And Lyricist, Dies At 91

Stephen Sondheim
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Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist widely regarded as one of the greats of musical theatre, has died at 91 years old.

His death has prmopted tributes from the world of theatre and pop, with Andrew Lloyd Webber calling him “the musical theatre giant of our times, an inspiration not just to two but to three generations [whose] contribution to theatre will never be equalled,” and Paul McCartney stating: “Very sad to hear of the passing of the great Stephen Sondheim. I was fortunate to meet him and chat about songwriting. He was a witty intelligent man. ‘Send in the Clowns’ is one of my favourite songs. So well crafted and beautiful with it. We have lost a great talent but his music will live long and prosper.”

Born and raised in New York, Stephen Sondheim was mentored at a young age by Oscar Hammerstein. He began his career as the lyricist of the hugely successful musicals West Side Story and Gypsy. Between 1970 and 1981, he collaborated with Hal Prince on some of his earliest successes as the writer of both music and lyrics, including Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, and Merrily We Roll Along. In the 80s and 90s, Sondheim collaborated with James Lapine on Sunday In The Park With George and Into The Woods. His songs have been covered by many artitsts from the world of rock and pop including Tom Waits (Somewhere) and Pet Shop Boys (Losing My Mind with Lisa Minnelli).

Sondheim was won eight Tony Awards over the course of his career, including a Lifetime Achievement award; he was awarded the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Sunday In The Park With George; he received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1993; and he also won eight Grammy Awards, including the Trustees Award throughout his career. In 1990, Sondheim won an Oscar for his song from Dick Tracy, starring Warren Beatty and Madonna.

In 2015, US President Barack Obama bestowed Sondheim the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian award in the US – for his work. Sondheim is survived by his husband, Jeffrey Scott Romley, whom he married in 2017.

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