James Rado, co-creator of the groundbreaking hippie musical Hair, which celebrated protest, cannabis and free love and paved the way for the sound of rock on Broadway, has died.
E was 90.
Rado died of cardio respiratory arrest Tuesday night in New York City, according to friend and campaigner Merle Frimark.
Child, which features a story and lyrics by Rado and Jerome Ragni and music by Galt McDermott, 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 music such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Rent.
Like Hamilton, it was one of only a handful of Broadway shows to find his songs on the pop charts over the past few decades.
The so-called “American Tribal Love-Rock Musical” had its world premiere in 1967 at the Public Theater in New York City’s East Village, and moved to Broadway the following year, where the musical made over 1,800 performances.
Rado played Claude, a young man who had to be drafted and sent to war in Vietnam.
Theater critic Clive Barnes of The New York Times called the show “the first Broadway musical in a while that has the authentic voice of today rather than the first of yesterday”.
The New York Post said it had “unintentional charm”, infectious high spirits and a “youthful enthusiasm” that “makes it difficult to resist”.
However, Variety called it a “looney”.
It lost the Tony in 1969 to the more traditional 1776 but won a Grammy Award.
The 2009 revival won the Best Revival Tony.
The show was revived on Broadway in 1977 and again in 2009.
It was made into a 1979 film directed by Milos Forman starring Treat Williams and Beverly D’Angelo.
We thought we’d stumbled upon a great idea, and something that could potentially hit Broadway in the never-too-distant future.James Rado
Bale scored four top four singles on the US pop charts, including the number one hit Aquarians/Let the Sunshine in the Fifth Dimension, which won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year, and Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Group in 1970.
Others include Child by the Cows, Good Morning, Starshine by singer Oliver and Easy to Be Hard by Three Dog Night.
The cast album itself stayed at number one on the Billboard 200 for 13 weeks.
Heyer tells the story of Claude and Berger, best friends who gained independence in the late 1960s.
Amidst a parade of draft-card burnings, love-ins, bad LSD trips and protest marches, the two wander through New York filled with flower kids, drugged-out hippies and angry tourists who don’t acknowledge 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.”
The show is playful and chaotic, but there is also a sense of outrage in its protests against the general hypocrisy of an era dominated by war, racism, sexism, pollution, and American involvement in Vietnam.
“I still want to tell the hair about that time,” Rado told the Associated Press in 1993.
“The hair had a spiritual message, and it has a mystical message that I hope is coming through – much more than the way it has been prepared for us, explained to us, taught us Life is.”
Heyer’s songs have been used in everything from Forrest Gump, Minions and The 40-Year-Old Virgin to TV shows such as Glee, So You Think You Can Dance and My Name Is Earl.
Billboard magazine listed Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In at number 66 on the Top 100 Songs of All Time.
In 2019, the original 1968 Broadway cast recording was inducted into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.
The Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, “deemed these Karna treasures worthy of preservation because of their cultural, historical and aesthetic importance to the country’s recorded sound 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 of the Broadway play Marathon ’33 in 1963 and played Richard Lionheart with Christopher Walken in 1966’s The Lion in Winter.
He met Ragni when he was cast in the Off-Broadway musical Hang Down Your Head and Die.
Both were interested in spawning a new kind of show and focused on the hippie scene.
They wrote the screenplay while sharing an apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Rado debuted on Broadway as Drafty Cloud’s Hair.
Baal faced protests across the country.
In addition to the use of four-letter words, infringement of authority, sexual references, and gross humor, the entire cast strip at the end of the act was naked where I could go and what many believed was profanity of the American flag.
There were church pickets in Evansville, Indiana.
Municipal officials in Chattanooga, Tennessee, denied a request to stage the show, determining that it would not be “in the best interest of the community.”
In Denver, police threatened to arrest anyone who appeared naked on stage.
The Boston Tour was challenged in court on the grounds of flag desecration.
The original Public Theater production had cut the nude scene, but producers wanted it back for its Broadway debut.
Under the law at the time, New York City allowed nudity on stage as long as the actors were not moving, which is why the entire cast of hair stood together, naked, and completely immobile.
After Heyer, Rado wrote the music and lyrics for the Off-Broadway show Rainbow, co-writing the book with his brother, Ted Rado.
He later collaborated with Ragni to compose the book and lyrics for the show Sun.
Ragni died in 1991.
Rado co-wrote a new show with his brother called American Soldier.
In 2009, Rado, McDermott and Ragni were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., of The Fifth Dimension group, were joined on stage by Broadway performers during a closing ceremony that put the ceremony’s nearly 1,000 guests on their feet.
McDermott passed away in 2018.
Rado told the Hudson Reporter in 2009 that none of the show’s producers anticipated it would have such a huge impact.
“We thought we’d stumbled upon a great idea, and never thought about the distant future for something that could potentially hit Broadway.”
He is survived by his brother Ted Rado, sister-in-law Rado, nieces Melanie Khoury, Emily DiBona and Melissa Stuart, great-niece and a nephew.