Through our “Literary Mansfield” series, we take occasional looks at the lives and careers of those who have called Mansfield home at some point in their lives, and who have become known locally, regionally, or even nationally as authorst, poets, lyricisits, playwrights, or in other literary fields. Other posts in the series can be found here.
Today’s subject is one of those with a national reputation as well as being a native Mansfielder. And, if you have ever heard and enjoyed songs like “Put On a Happy Face” or “Applause,” you are in his debt.
Lee Adams was born in 1924 and grew up locally, graduating from Mansfield Senior before going on to The Ohio State University and Columbia University. After graduating with his Master’s, Adams worked as a newspaper reporter, a magazine and editor for publications such as Pageant and This Week magazines, and as a radio writer and interviewer.
It was his friendship and collaboration with composer Charles Strause, however, that took Adams to Broadway.
The two joined forces for 1961’s huge hit, “Bye Bye Birdie,” with an original cast featuring Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera, and north central Ohioan Paul Lynde. This success led to the lyricist’s first Tony Award.
In 1970, he received his second Tony Award as lyricist for “Applause,” which starred Lauren Bacall — someone with her own Richland County connection. Adams was also nominated for a Tony in 1965 for his work on “Golden Boy.”
His Internet Broadway Database profile listing his work can be found here.
Adams also worked outside of musical theatre. He and Strouse co-wrote “Those Were the Days, “ the theme song of television’s popular “All in the Family” series.
For his work, Adams was made a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1989.
You can read a 2015 interview with Lee Adams here.
Sources: Wikipedia, Songwriters Hall of Fame; Image – Creative Commons License