Lorenz Milton Hart, born May 2, 1895, was an acclaimed lyricist who wrote songs for musical comedies and Broadway shows with his writing partner, Richard Rodgers.
Hart was born to German-Jewish immigrant parents in Harlem, New York. His father, a business promoter, saved money to send him and his brother to private schools; he attended private primary and secondary school and started at Columbia as a journalism major. While in school, he was employed by the Shubert brothers translating German plays into English. In 1918, he was introduced to his long-time collaborator Richard Rodgers, and they wrote songs for Columbia’s variety show among other things. In 1919, one of Rodgers and Hart’s first songs “Any Old Place With You” was included in a musical comedy A Lonely Romeo, giving the duo their big break into the industry. Their next break came when six of their songs were included in the musical comedy Poor Little Ritz Girl which lead to the opportunity to write the score for the 1925 Theatre Guild production The Garrick Gaieties. The Garrick Gaieties helped the duo gain notoriety and from then on, they skyrocketed to fame.
Together, Hart and Rodgers had a very prolific career together. They wrote the score for over 20 Broadway musicals and several movie musicals during their 25-year-long partnership. They wrote several hits in the 20s and 30s, the biggest being A Connecticut Yankee in 1927. They then transitioned to film and wrote the scores for several big musicals like Love Me Tonight (1932), The Phantom President (1932), Hallelujah, I'm a Bum (1933), and Mississippi (1935) for big name actors and singers like Maurice Chevalier and Bing Crosby. They also wrote the iconic song, “Blue Moon”, during this time which was later covered by artists like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.
The duo returned to writing for the stage in the mid-30s which led to some of their most enduring works and recognizable songs. Starting with On Your Toes (1936), Rodgers and Hart produced increasingly spectacular and well-received musicals that wowed audiences and critics alike. After On Your Toes came Babes in Arms (1937) which contained the now standard songs “My Funny Valentine” and “The Lady is a Tramp”. Other famous works include I’d Rather Be Right (1937), I Married an Angel (1938), The Boys From Syracuse (1939), Too Many Girls (1939), Higher and Higher (1940), Pal Joey (1940), and By Jupiter (1942).
Because of his steady work on Broadway, Hart became a magnet for people during the Great Depression, and gave lavish parties. However, his partying acted somewhat as a shield for his underlying depression and alcoholism which steadily worsened with his time in the spotlight. By 1943, his personal issues had broken down his partnership with Richard Rodgers and the two parted ways after their work on the revival of A Connecticut Yankee. He passed away soon after, leaving behind a legacy of clever and vulnerable lyrics connected to some of the most timeless songs in musical theatre canon.