West News Wire: James Rado, co-creator of the groundbreaking rock musical “Hair,” which paved the way for the sound of rock on Broadway and celebrated protest, marijuana, and free love, has passed away. He was 90.

According to friend and publicist Merle Frimark, Rado passed away Tuesday night in New York City due to cardio respiratory arrest.

The Broadway production of “Hair,” which has music by Galt MacDermot and lyrics by Rado and Gerome Ragni, was the first rock musical, the first Broadway production to feature full nudity, and the first to feature a same-sex kiss.

Playwright Michael R. Jackson, whose “A Strange Loop” recently won the Tony Award for best play, received tributes from the theater community, including André De Shields, who tweeted “Rest in peace, James Rado.”

“Hair” made possible other rock musicals like “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Rent.” Like “Hamilton,” it was one of only a handful of Broadway shows in the past few decades to find its songs on the pop charts.

The so-called “American tribal love-rock musical,” had its world premiere at the Public Theater in New York City’s East Village in 1967 and transferred the following year to Broadway, where the musical ran more than 1,800 performances. Rado played Claude, a young man about to be drafted and sent to the war in Vietnam.

Clive Barnes, theater critic for The New York Times, called the show “the first Broadway musical in some time to have the authentic voice of today rather than the day before yesterday.” The New York Post said it had “unintentional charm,” contagious high spirits and a “young zestfulness” that “make it difficult to resist.” Variety, however, called it “loony.”

It lost the Tony in 1969 to the more traditional “1776” but won a Grammy Award. The show was revived on Broadway in 1977 and again in 2009, when it won the best revival Tony. It was made into a movie directed by Milos Forman in 1979 starring Treat Williams and Beverly D’Angelo.

Read More
New York migrant inflow to cost city $1bn: Mayor

The “Hair” Broadway cast album charted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and stayed at No. 1 for 13 weeks in 1969. It spawned four top four singles on the American pop charts, including the No. 1 hit “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” by the Fifth Dimension, which won the Grammy Award for record of the year and best pop vocal performance by a group in 1970. Others included “Hair” by the Cowsills, “Good Morning, Starshine” by the singer Oliver and “Easy to Be Hard” by Three Dog Night. The cast album itself stayed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for 13 weeks.

“Hair” tells the story of Claude and Berger, best buddies who find freedom in the late 1960s. Between draft-card burnings, love-ins, bad LSD trips and a parade of protest marches, the two wander through a New York filled with flower children, drugged-out hippies and outraged tourists who don’t approve of the wild goings-on. In one song, Claude poignantly sings, “Why do I live, why do I die, tell me where do I go, tell me why.”

In 2009, Rado, MacDermot and Ragni were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., of the group The Fifth Dimension, were joined onstage by the Broadway cast at the time for a finale that brought the ceremony’s approximately 1,000 guests to their feet. MacDermot died in 2018.

Rado told the Hudson Reporter in 2009 that none of the show’s creators anticipated that it would have such an enormous impact. “We thought we’d stumbled on a great idea, and something that potentially could be a hit on Broadway, never thinking of the distant future.”

He is survived by his brother Ted Rado, sister-in-law Kay Rado, nieces Melanie Khoury, Emily DiBona and Melissa Stuart, great-nieces and a great-nephew.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here