Frederick Loewe was born on June 10, 1901 in Berlin to Viennese parents, Edmond and Rosa. His father, Edmond Loewe, was a very famous musical star who traveled considerably, including North and South America, and much of Europe. Fritz grew up in Berlin and attended a Prussian cadet school from the age of five until he was thirteen. He hated the school because his parents would leave him there while they toured worldwide. One of Fritz's most bitter memories was spending even the Christmas holidays at school with two or three other boys. He never cared for Christmas very much because of that experience.
By the age of seven or eight, Fritz learned by ear and played on piano, every new song his father rehearsed for a new musical in which he was appearing. He was able to play the entire score and help his father in rehearsals. This impressed his father greatly, and Edmond suggested giving Fritz music lessons. His mother, however, was never moved by Fritz's talent, saying; "Oh, they all do that!"
Fritz eventually did attend a famous conservatory in Berlin, one year behind the virtuoso Claudio Arrau. Both won the coveted Hollander Medal, awarded by the school, and Fritz gave performances as a concert pianist while still in Germany. In 1925, Edmond received an offer to appear in New York, and Fritz traveled there with him. Deciding to go separate ways, Fritz decided he was going to "crash Broadway".
But this proved to be difficult, and Fritz was on the verge of starvation many times, with memories of sleeping on benches in the snow in Central Park. Finding work in the German section of New York at the time, "Yorkville", he made his way playing German clubs and in the movie theaters, accompanying silent pictures as they appeared on the screen. He would be given a prepared score for each film. Fritz's first action would be to throw the score in the trash, composing his own melodies to suit the action on-screen. He discovered that he had a great facility for this type of improvisation and enjoyed his work. He did encounter one problem at his first theater: Each performance was to begin with a rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, and Fritz didn't know how it went. So, he improvised a new national anthem on the spot. This didn't go well with the theater owners, who threatened to fire him unless he learned the piece properly.
When the Depression hit, Fritz was having a difficult time trying to get one of his musical pieces produced, or at least to get his songs published. He decided to go out West and see more of the country. For a while, he delivered the mail in rural Montana on horseback. After a year, he returned to New York and did some odd jobs, including a stint at prize fighting.
Fritz began to visit a famous NY night spot of the time, "The Lambs Club", frequented by theater people, stars, producers, managers, and directors. One evening, "on the way to the men's room", he encountered Alan Jay Lerner at a nearby table. Fritz went up to him, saying "I understand you write lyrics". Alan replied "Well, I understand you write music". Alan was working on an idea for a show, Great Lady, and they decided to collaborate. It was not a major hit, but the score received favorable notices. It was the first time Fritz ever had his music reviewed. Their next effort, The Day Before Spring, did a little better, and the team was beginning to receive very positive recognition.
Their first real hit was Brigadoon, with it's Scottish theme, and the combination Lerner and Loewe was finally recognized in theaters around the world. Fritz was 47 before his fame was Established. In 1952 the musical Paint Your Wagon hit Broadway, followed by the classic My Fair Lady in 1956 - the longest running musical of all time until the record was broken by Cats. During the first year of My Fair Lady's success, Fritz would go up to people sleeping on the sidewalk for tickets and offer them cups of coffee. "Why are you doing this!?" they would ask, looking at him as if he were crazy. "Because I'm the composer" Fritz would answer. "Yeah, sure!, they'd respond, " ... and I'm the King of Denmark!". They never would believe him. The next production, Camelot, received terrible reviews when it opened. The director and producer of the play got the brilliant idea of having the stars, Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, and Robert Goulet appear on the Ed Sullivan Show and sing a few numbers from the musical, along with an appearance by Alan and Fritz. The next morning the ticket office was swamped with requests, and Camelot became a huge hit.
Fritz then decided on retirement, not writing anything until he was approached by Alan Lerner with the book The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupery. Fritz fell in love with the story and began work on the new production at age 71. Fritz and Alan created a simple script and score that truly captured the magical feeling of the book. The new musical fell victim to an overblown and overproduced Hollywood treatment that ruined the feeling of the play as written. Fritz, in the meantime, refused to visit London and supervise the arrangement and recording of the score. The resulting production was their only real flop. Fritz remained in Palm Springs, California, in retirement until his death in 1988.
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