Celebrated American composer Charles Strouse presented his papers to the Library of Congress in a private ceremony today. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington formally accepted the gift on behalf of the Library and the American people and honored Strouse, perhaps best known for such musical-theater smashes as “Annie,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Applause” and “Golden Boy.”
Strouse’s papers include the original music manuscripts for the many stage productions for which he is so well-known. Several noteworthy artifacts from his collection were also on display as part of the celebration of his gift. These included the manuscript for “Tomorrow,” the iconic song from “Annie” that is one of the best-known songs of our time. In addition, the original music manuscripts for television’s “All in the Family” theme “Those Were the Days,” vintage LP albums of Strouse original-cast recordings and manuscripts and a poster from the show “Golden Boy” was on display.
Strouse’s papers will be the newest addition to collections in the Library of artists eminent in American lyric theater. These include the collections of George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lorenz Hart, Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner, Leonard Bernstein and Irving Berlin.
Later this evening, Strouse will be honored at the Terrace Theater of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The evening will include a performance of his music.
Born in New York City on June 7, 1928, Strouse is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., where he studied under Aaron Copland, Nadia Boulanger and David Diamond, among others. He first came to national attention with the musical “Bye Bye Birdie,” which opened in New York City on April 14, 1960, to great critical and popular acclaim. The musical brought Strouse his first Tony Award for best score. The celebration of the career of fictional rock singer Conrad Birdie became a landmark American musical, which was made into a popular film and has been revived with great success. His musical “Applause” gave Strouse his second Tony award and brought Lauren Bacall back to the Broadway stage.
Perhaps the best-known musical by Strouse is “Annie”—based on the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie”—which opened in New York City on April 21, 1977, after a world premiere at the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut. “Annie” brought Strouse his third Tony and two Grammy awards.
Songs that “broke out” of Strouse musicals to new fame in the repertoire of many singing stars include “Put on a Happy Face,” “A Lot of Living to Do,” “You’ve Got Possibilities” and “Once Upon a Time.” Other notable Strouse musicals include “All American,” “It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane … It’s Superman!” and “Charlie and Algernon.”
In addition to his well-known work in musical comedy, Strouse has also achieved success on the opera stage. On November 4, 2004, his opera “The Future of the American Musical Theater,” had its world premiere at the Eastman School of Music. It was presented as a companion piece to Strouse’s 1985 opera, “Nightingale,” based on a tale of Hans Christian Anderson. The two works were staged under the title “East Meets West.”
Strouse has also written extensively for film. His work includes the scores for “Bonnie and Clyde” and “The Night They Raided Minsky’s.” His television work includes one of the most famous themes ever written, “Those Were the Days” from the series “All in the Family,” written with longtime collaborator Lee Adams.
Strouse’s memoir, titled “Put on a Happy Face,” will be published by Sterling Publishing. It will be available July 1.