James Rado, co-creator of groundbreaking Broadway musical Hair, has died at the age of 90.

James Rado, co-writer of the groundbreaking hippie musical Hair, which celebrated protest, marijuana and free love and paved the way for the sound of rock on Broadway, has died.

e was 90.

According to friend and publicist Merle Freemark, Rado died on Tuesday evening in New York from cardiac and respiratory arrest.

Hair, with story and lyrics written by Rado and Jerome Ragni and music composed by Galt McDermot, was the first rock musical on Broadway, the first Broadway show to feature full nudity, and the first to feature a same-sex kiss.

Hair made possible other rock musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Rent.


Hairstylists Galt McDermott (left) and James Rado appear during a photo shoot. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

Like Hamilton, it was one of the few Broadway shows in the last few decades whose songs made it onto the pop charts.

The so-called “American tribal love-rock musical” had its world premiere at the Public Theater in New York’s East Village in 1967, and moved to Broadway the following year, where the musical performed more than 1,800 times.

Rado played Claude, a young man about to be drafted and sent to the Vietnam War.

Clive Barnes, theater critic for The New York Times, called the show “the first Broadway musical in some time to feature the authentic voice of today, not the day before.”

The New York Post wrote that it has “an unintentional charm”, an infectious high spirits and a “young perkyness” that are “hard to resist”.

However, Variety called him a “psycho”.

He lost to the Tony in 1969 over the more traditional 1776 but won a Grammy.

The 2009 revival won Best Tony Revival.

The show was revived on Broadway in 1977 and 2009.

It was made into a film by Milos Forman in 1979 starring Treat Williams and Beverly D’Angelo.

We thought we had stumbled upon a great idea, and something that could potentially be a hit on Broadway without ever thinking about the distant future.James Rado

Hair spawned four top ten singles on the US pop charts, including the number one hit Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In by the Fifth Dimension which won a 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, Oliver’s Starshine and Three Dog Night’s Easy To Be Hard.

The cast album itself remained at number one on the Billboard 200 for 13 weeks.

The hair tells the story of Claude and Bergé, best friends who found their freedom in the late 1960s.

Between burning conscripts, love affairs, failed LSD trips, and a parade of protest marches, they roam a New York City filled with flower children, drugged hippies, and outraged tourists who disapprove of wild creations.

In one song, Claude sings piercingly: “Why do I live? Why am I dying? Tell me where should I go. Tell me why.”

The show is playful and chaotic, but there is a sense of outrage in its protests against war, racism, sexism, pollution, and the general hypocrisy of an era dominated by American involvement in Vietnam.

“I still wish Hair was about what it was about back then,” Rado told the Associated Press in 1993.

“There was a spiritual message in the hair, and there is a mystical message in it that I hope is reaching us—there is more to life than what it was designed for us, explained to us, what we were taught.”

Hair songs have been used in everything from the films Forrest Gump, Minions and 40 Year Old Virgin to TV shows like Glee, So You Think You Can Dance and My Name Is Earl.

Billboard magazine ranked Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In at number 66 on its list of the 100 Greatest Songs of All Time.

In 2019, the original recording of the 1968 Broadway cast was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden deemed “these sonic treasures worthy of preservation due to their cultural, historical, and aesthetic importance to the nation’s sonic heritage.”

Rado was born in Venice, California and raised in Rochester, New York and Washington, DC.

After serving two years in the US Navy, he moved to New York and studied acting with Paula and Lee Strasberg.

Rado was part of the ensemble cast for the Broadway play Marathon 33 in 1963 and played Richard the Lionheart in The Lion in Winter in 1966 alongside Christopher Walken.

He met Ragni when he was cast in the Broadway musical Hang Your Head and Die.

The two were interested in creating a new type of show and focused on the hippie scene.

They wrote the script while living in the same apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Rado came up with the role of Claude inductee Hair on Broadway.

The hair met with resistance across the country.

In addition to the use of four-letter words, disdain for authority, sexual references, and crude humor, the end of the first act had the entire cast naked until “Where Am I Going” and there was what many considered a defilement. American flag.

There were church pickets in Evansville, Indiana.

The municipal government in Chattanooga, Tennessee turned down a request to stage the show, deciding it would not be “in the public interest”.

In Denver, police threatened to arrest anyone who appeared naked on stage.

The Boston visit was challenged in court on grounds of desecration of the flag.

In the original Public Theater production, the nudity scene was cut, but the creators wanted to bring it back for its Broadway debut.

According to the law of the time, in New York it was allowed to be naked on stage as long as the actors were not moving, so the entire cast of Hair stood together in a row, naked and completely still.

After Hair, Rado co-wrote the music and lyrics for the off-Broadway show Rainbow with his brother Ted Rado.

He later teamed up with Ragni to create a book and lyrics for the Sun show.

Rani died in 1991.

Rado co-wrote a new show with his brother called American Soldier.

In 2009, Rado, McDermot and Ragni were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. of The Fifth Dimension joined the Broadway cast at the time on stage for the finale, which brought about 1,000 ceremony guests to their feet.

McDermot died in 2018.

Rado told the Hudson Reporter in 2009 that none of the show’s creators expected it to have such a huge impact.

“We thought we had stumbled upon a great idea and something that could potentially be a hit on Broadway without even thinking about the distant future.”

He is survived by brother Ted Rado, daughter-in-law Kay Rado, nieces Melanie Khoury, Emily DiBona and Melissa Stewart, great-nieces and great-nephew.