Columbians Ahead of Their Time
 Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II
Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II "I hand him a lyric and get out of his way."
—Hammerstein on Rodgers

"He's a meticulously hard worker and yet he'll roam the grass of his farm for hours and sometimes for days before he can bring himself to put a word on paper."
—Rodgers on Hammerstein

Richard Rodgers (1902–79)
Columbia College 1923
MusD 1954 (hon.)

Oscar Hammerstein II (1895–1960)
Lyricist and Librettist
Columbia College 1916
Law 1916–17
LittD 1954 (hon.)

Rodgers and Hammerstein changed the face of American musical theater by integrating the elements of drama, music and dance as never before. Their 17-year partnership began in 1943 with Oklahoma! and continued through ten other musicals, including one motion picture (State Fair, 1945) and one teleplay (Cinderella, 1957), Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951) and The Sound of Music (1959). In all, the duo won 35 Tonys, 15 Oscars, two Grammys, two Pulitzers, and two Emmys.

Rodgers began his career collaborating with another Columbian. As a freshman student at Columbia College, he composed the music for the Varsity Show of 1920, with lyrics provided by a former Columbia journalism student named Lorenz Hart. The success of the show, Fly with Me, led to a twenty-year partnership between Rodgers and Hart, and to such classic songs as "Manhattan," "Blue Moon," and "The Lady Is a Tramp" from shows including Connecticut Yankee (1927), The Boys from Syracuse (1938), and Pal Joey (1940). Hart's deteriorating health led to the breakup of their partnership in 1940. Hart attended the opening of Oklahoma! on March 31, 1943, in New York, graciously telling Rodgers at the final curtain, "This show of yours will run forever." Eight months later, Hart died of pneumonia.

Hammerstein, the grandson and namesake of an operatic impresario, also participated in the Varsity Show during his undergraduate years at Columbia College. After a year at Columbia Law School, he went on to fame as a librettist for operettas composed by Rudolph Firml (Rose Marie), Sigmund Romberg (Desert Song), and George Gershwin (Song of the Flame). Hammerstein had a successful career before beginning his partnership with Rodgers. He collaborated with Jerome Kern on eight musicals, most notably Show Boat (1927), and wrote the book and lyrics for Carmen Jones, the 1943 all-black version of Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen.

After Hammerstein's death in 1960, Rodgers wrote the music and lyrics for No Strings, for which he earned two Tonys. He then composed the music for Do I Hear A Waltz? (to lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, a Hammerstein protégé), Two by Two, Rex, and I Remember Mama. Rodgers's centenary in 2002 was celebrated around the world with books, retrospectives, performances, new recordings of his music, and a Broadway revival of Oklahoma! Rodgers left behind a legacy of more than 900 published songs, forty musicals, and numerous works for film and television.

Read more about Richard Rodgers in the Columbia Encyclopedia Read more about Oscar Hammerstein II in the Columbia Encyclopedia

Brilliant lyricist who, with Rodgers, transformed musical comedy.

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