Frank Loesser

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Perhaps best remembered as the writer and composer of the ever-popular Guys and Dolls and the Pulitzer Prize–winning How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Frank Loesser was one of the great songwriters of the twentieth century. Lyricist of over 700 songs—among them such cherished favorites as “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “Once in Love with Amy,” and “I Believe in You”—his work has received both Tony and Academy Awards. Here Thomas L. Riis, in a deeply informed and lively discussion of Loesser’s life and musical career, presents a critical look at one of the most important—though often overshadowed—Broadway composers.

Immensely prolific and a personally magnetic man, Loesser was a major figure during the Broadway golden age that included Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, and Bernstein. Riis traces Loesser’s early career as a Hollywood songwriter and a noted contributor to the war effort. He discusses in depth each of Loesser’s musicals and provides a look at the legacy of a man admired as a mentor who inspired dozens of assistants, protégés, young songwriters, novice singer-actors, and aspiring producers. This book offers a concise look at Loesser’s life along with an engaging examination of the totality of his works. 


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Editorial Reviews

Ralph P. Locke

"Frank Loesser was that rare bird: a skillful stage composer and brilliant writer of song lyrics. Riis's deeply researched and musically astute study shows us what makes a great show such as Guys and Dolls tick."—Ralph P. Locke, Professor of Musicology, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester

Gerald Bordman

"This superb, imaginative songwriter has finally received the biography he deserves."—Gerald Bordman, author of American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle

Music Research Forum - Alexandre B�due
"Any musical theater fan or scholar can enjoy this delightful read, just as lighthearted and cheerful as a Loesser song."—Alexandre Bádue, Music Research Forum
Music Research Forum - Alexandre Bádue

"Any musical theater fan or scholar can enjoy this delightful read, just as lighthearted and cheerful as a Loesser song."—Alexandre Bádue, Music Research Forum
Library Journal

After a biographical introduction to the composer/lyricist of Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella, and How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Riis (Joseph Negler Professor of Music, Univ. of Colorado) examines Frank Loesser's music, devoting single chapters to the composer's great works and covering lesser-known musicals like Greenwillow, Pleasures and Palaces, and Senior Discretion Himself. For Guys and Dolls, Riis includes sections on Damon Runyon (whose stories inspired the musical), other precursors like George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara, the book, the songs, critical reaction, and revivals. The final chapter examines the legacy of Loesser and offers fertile comments on the sources of his aesthetic. With musical examples, excerpts from lyrics, and detailed examinations of individual songs, Riis's book is not primarily a biography, and it does not replace Susan Loesser's A Most Remarkable Fella: Frank Loesser and the Guys and Dolls in His Life; A Portrait by His Daughter. But this discerning and valuable study is recommended for all libraries, particularly in light of the dearth of published sources concerning Loesser.
—Bruce R. Schueneman

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300110517
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2008
  • Series: Yale Broadway Masters Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas L. Riis is the Joseph Negler Professor of Music and director of the American Music Research Center, University of Colorado at Boulder. He is a specialist in musical theater, and he lectures and writes frequently on many topics in nineteenth- and twentieth-century African American music.

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