Stephen Sondheim is a Jewish American composer and lyricist.
Born Stephen Joshua Sondeim on March 22, 1930, in New York City. Sondheim had no formal Jewish education or association, nor did he have a Bar Mitzvah, but began to find his Jewish identity later in life. In 1950, he graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Sondheim worked under Oscar Hammerstein II, and wrote the music for four of his shows: All That Glitters, High Tor, Mary Poppins, Climb High. None of these “assignment” musicals were produced professionally. Sondheim went on to study composition with the famous composer Milton Babbitt.
At the age of twenty-five, Sondheim obtained his first big break when he was asked to write the lyrics for West Side Story. In 1959, he wrote the lyrics to the musical Gypsy. In 1962, Sondheim wrote both the music and lyrics for the Broadway musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Between 1970 and 1981, Sondheim collaborated with producer/director Harold Prince on six musicals. In 1970, he composed and wrote the lyrics for the musical Company. In 1981, with the flop of Merrily We Roll Along, Sondheim ended his partnership with Prince, and found a new collaborated in James Lapine. In 1985, they released their first musical, Sunday in the Park with George. In 1985, he won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for Sunday in the Park with George. In 1987, the Sondheim-Lapine duo also produced the popular show, Into the Woods.
Sondheim’s best-known song, “Send in the Clowns”, has become a modern standard, covered by famous artists such as Barbara Streisand and Frank Sinatra.