On May 18, 1902, Meredith Willson was born in Mason City, Iowa. An amazing musician, composer and arranger, Meredith distinguished himself as a writer of symphonic works and popular songs. But his most famous work of all?
The Broadway Musical – The Music Man.
After graduating from high school in Mason City, Meredith attended the Institute of Musical Art in New York City – later called the Juilliard School of Music, and was a flutist in John Philip Sousa’s band (1921-1923). He also played with the New York Philharmonic (1924-1929), and worked at the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) in radio.
The idea for The Music Man began in 1949, when Meredith Willson was reminiscing with friends about his childhood years in Mason City, Iowa. In an interview later in life, Willson referred to the show as “an Iowan’s attempt to pay tribute to his home state.”
Opening on Broadway on December 19, 1957, The Music Man ran for a marathon 1,375 performances. Willson’s award-winning score includes the songs “Seventy-Six Trombones,” “Trouble,” “Goodnight, My Someone,” and “Till There Was You,” – a huge hit for the Beatles in 1963.
Since its Broadway debut in 1957, The Music Man has been adapted twice for film – 1962 and 2003. Over the decades, there have also been numerous revivals on Broadway. In 2021-2022, even in the midst of COVID, the famed actor, Hugh Jackman has brought yet another successful run on Broadway. And as of this post, this new version of The Music Man has been nominated for six Tony Awards!
Happy Birthday, Meredith Willson – Iowa’s own Music Man – on this, your 120th birthday.
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