Let the Sunshine In : RIP Galt MacDermot

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Pat Cerasaro

Bringing an art form in an entirely new direction is not an easy task even for the most accomplished of artists, yet revered composer Galt MacDermot did just that with the revolutionary "American Tribal Love-Rock Musical" HAIR in 1967.

A modern masterpiece expertly tapping into the zeitgeist of the moment with a fearless ferocity and inimitable style all its own, HAIR is one of the most important musicals of the 20th century. Today, we celebrate the theatrical career of its composer who passed away today at the age of 89, just one day short of his 90th birthday.

Collaborating with Gerome Ragni and James Rado, MacDermot crafted one of the most instantly recognizable scores of all time with the songstack of HAIR. "Aquarius", "Hair", "Easy To Be Hard", "Frank Mills", "Good Morning Starshine" and "Let The Sunshine In" all have become modern day standards, with several becoming chart-topping breakout hits, as well. The superlative contemporary music was married to edgy and inventive lyrics in an entertaining, challenging and daring manner to create a melange that was impossible to resist except to perhaps the most uptight of purists at the time of its premiere.

The world was changing and this was the first musical to out-rightly reflect that in every note, word and action. HAIR was unlike anything before, but audiences and critics agreed it was worthy of praise and it subsequently enjoyed more than 1700 performances on Broadway, following the acclaimed original Off-Broadway run. The subsequent 1979 Milos Forman film arrived at the wrong moment in time, yet is now considered among the best movie musicals of the modern era.

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Subsequently, MacDermot contributed scores to several other musicals, although none of them have come close to achieving the ubiquity of HAIR. Indeed, TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA received raves and scored the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1972 - over no less than FOLLIES and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR - yet, his other theatrical works failed to catch fire in the same way. VIA GALACTICA and DUDE are two of the most notorious flops of the 1970s, while THE HUMAN COMEDY possesses a sterling score full of ingenuity, vitality and warmth, but failed to catch on with audiences in 1984. Several other projects followed, although none managed to echo the success of his inaugural works.

With NBC presenting HAIR LIVE! as its annual musical offering next year, a more befitting tribute to an iconic composer who literally changed the sound of Broadway could not be a more apropos time to let the sunshine in, again.