Jerry Bock


It has been reported (at Broadwayworld.com) that musical theatre composer Jerry Bock died last night at the age of 81.  Most famous for writing the music for Fiddler on the Roof, his legacy to the world also includes a number of other shows, including Fiorello!, one of the few musicals ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  In a strange coincidence, Joseph Stein, who wrote the book (the spoken words) for Fiddler, died only last month.

Fiddler on the Roof is definitely Bock’s most well-known contribution to musical theatre, containing numbers which evoke emotions from joy to despair, but there are some hidden gems in his catalogue of works.  The melody for ‘Artificial Flowers’ from Tenderloin is truly beautiful (though you wouldn’t know it from Bobby Darrin’s recording), and I have a bit of a soft spot for the score of She Loves Me (not least because the show’s lead would be a wonderful part to play).  It even includes a song called ‘A Trip to the Library’, so how could I fail to like it?  The title song and ‘Where’s My Shoe?’ are great pieces of character writing, and ‘Twelve Days to Christmas’ evokes the panic of festive shopping perfectly.  But my favourite number from the show, and from Jerry Bock, is probably ‘Tonight at Eight’ :

His style may not have been as distinctive as some of the other musical theatre writers of his generation like John Kander or Jerry Herman, but Mr Bock had a flair for melody, sometimes supporting a comic lyric as in ‘Tonight at Eight’, sometimes evoking a particular time or place, sometimes soaring free.  His name may not be that well known outside of theatrical circles, but the power of Fiddler on the Roof ensures that his legacy will last for a long time to come.  Jerry Bock, rest in peace.

    • Trish
    • November 4th, 2010

    What an incredibly talented and amazing person he must have been to have written music like that.

    I love Fiddler on the Roof and because I have grown up with it have never really thought that someone actually wrote it – it’s just always been there. He must have had such a deep understanding of human nature. Also, to be able to write music for such different types of lyrics but still be spot on in terms of what works.

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