Cy Coleman (June 14, 1929 - November 18, 2004) was an American composer, songwriter, and jazz pianist.
Despite the early classical and jazz success, he decided to build a career in popular music. His first collaborator was Joseph Allen McCarthy, but his most successful early partnership, albeit a turbulent one, was with Carolyn Leigh. The pair wrote many pop hits, including Witchcraft and The Best Is Yet To Come.
One of his instrumentals, "Playboy's Theme," became the signature music of the regular TV shows and specials presented by Playboy magazine, and remains synonymous with the magazine and its creator, Hugh Hefner.
In 1964, Coleman met Dorothy Fields at a party, and when he asked if she would like to collaborate with him, she is reported to have answered, "Thank God somebody asked". Fields was revitalised by working with the much younger Coleman, and by the contemporary nature of their first project, which was to become Sweet Charity, again with a book by Simon, and starring Gwen Verdon. The show was a major success and Coleman found working with Fields much easier than with Leigh. The partnership was to work on two more shows – an aborted project about Eleanor Roosevelt, and Seesaw which reached Broadway in 1973 after a troubled out-of-town tour. Despite mixed reviews, the show enjoyed a healthy run. The partnership was cut short by Fields' death in 1974.
Coleman remained prolific in the late 1970s. He collaborated on I Love My Wife (1977) with Michael Stewart, On The Twentieth Century (1978) with Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and Home Again, Home Again with Barbara Fried, although the latter never reached Broadway.
In 1980, Coleman served as producer and composer for the circus-themed Barnum, which introduced theatergoers to Jim Dale and Glenn Close. Later in the decade, he collaborated on Welcome to the Club (1988) with A.E. Hotchner and City of Angels (1989) with David Zippel. In the latter, inspired by the hard-boiled detective film noir of the 1930s and '40s, he returned to his jazz roots, and the show was a huge critical and commercial success.
The 1990s brought more new Coleman musicals to Broadway: The Will Rogers Follies (1991), again with Comden and Green, The Life (1997), a gritty look at pimps, prostitutes, and assorted other lowlife in the big city, with Ira Gasman, and a revised production of Little Me. Coleman's film scores include Father Goose, The Art of Love, Garbo Talks and Family Business. In addition, he wrote Shirley MacLaine's memorable television specials, If My Friends Could See Me Now and Gypsy in My Soul.
Coleman was on the ASCAP Board of Directors for many years and also served as their Vice Chairman Writer.
He died of cardiac arrest on November 18, 2004 at the age of 75. He is survived by his wife, Shelby Coleman and their daughter, Lily Cye Coleman (born in 2000). To the very end, he was part of the Broadway scene - just prior to passing away, he had attended the premiere of Michael Frayn's new play Democracy. One final musical with a Coleman score played in Los Angeles in 2004 under the title Like Jazz, presumably as a Broadway tryout.
Awards and nominations
He also won three Emmy Awards and two Grammy Awards, was elected to the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, and was the recipient of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame Johnny Mercer Award and The ASCAP Foundation Richard Rodgers Award for Lifetime Achievement in the American Musical Theater.