Four-time Tony Award–winning composer and lyricist Jerry Herman has died at age 88. Herman’s catchy music widely influenced theater and pop culture, with hits from Hello, Dolly!, La Cage aux Folles, and Mame, among others. Herman’s goddaughter, Jane Dorian, confirmed his death to the Associated Press on Friday morning. He reportedly suffered from pulmonary complications and died in Miami, where he lived with his partner, Terry Marler.
Born Gerald Herman on July 10, 1931 in New Jersey, Herman grew up seeing Broadway shows. Ethel Merman’s Annie Get Your Gun and, especially the song “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” would go on to inspire his work. In 1970, Merman played Dolly Levi in Herman’s hit musical. Herman’s career spanned decades, winning Tonys in 1964 and 1984 for Hello, Dolly! starring Carol Channing and the ahead-of-its-time La Cage aux Folles. Including Mame, he was the first composer-lyricist to have three musicals run for over 1,500 performances. His songs lived outside of the theater, as well. “Hello, Dolly!” became a Louis Armstrong hit, “I Am What I Am” from La Cage is regarded as a gay anthem, and “We Need a Little Christmas” is a holiday mainstay. Although music tastes have changed in the last few decades, Jerry Herman’s tunes persist. “I don’t think there’s anything more gratifying in my business than to know the work will go on after I’m not here anymore,” he told the Washington Post in 2010. “Because I don’t write for 1964, or for 1997. I write songs that I hope will still be hummed years from now.”