American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim has died this Friday at the age of 91. Stephen Joshua Sondheim was born in 1930 in Manhattan, the only child of dress manufacturer Herbert Sondheim and his wife Etta. The talented Sondheim showed an aptitude for music as a child, studying piano at age seven before writing his first musical at 15. Early in his career, Sondheim was mentored by Oscar Hammerstein II.

Sondheim graduated with a major in music from Williams College but went to Los Angeles as a television scriptwriter.

He returned to New York City and composed the music for a play called The Girls of Summer. It was his next project, writing the lyrics for Bernstein’s West Side Story, that thrust Sondheim into the spotlight. A great number of successes followed, often with works for which he wrote the lyrics as well as the music. Sondheim’s best-known works as composer and lyricist include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), and Into the Woods (1987).

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