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American Musicals

The Plain Dealer says Centennial of Loesser's birthday should be noted, guys and dolls

Let's take a fleeting break from bicentennial salutes to Chopin and Schumann to make note of another musical milestone: the 100th anniversary of the birth of Frank Loesser.

The composer-lyricist who gave the world such iconic musicals as "Guys and Dolls," "The Most Happy Fella" and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" was born June 29, 1910, in New York. For these and other achievements, Loesser deserves hosannas, whether we're in centenary mode or not.

He holds a firm position on the extremely short list of Broadway masters who wrote both music and words. The honor roll includes Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Harold Rome, Stephen Sondheim and Jerry Herman.

Loesser crammed an enormous amount of stellar creativity into a career that began in Hollywood, where he largely fashioned lyrics to music by other composers. His distinctive wit and passion gradually compelled him to go it alone and write such hits as "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" and "Baby It's Cold Outside."


Loesser's voluminous contribution to the American popular culture didn't meet with parental acceptance. Their high-culture leanings were adopted by his older half-brother, Arthur, an exceptional pianist who became a superb critic, program annotator, author and faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Music for four decades.

With typical whimsy, Frank quipped that he was "the evil of two Loessers." Maybe, but in no way can he be considered a lesser Loesser.