Stephen Lawrence, who offered a soundtrack of sorts for countless childhoods as the music director for the landmark “Free to Be … You and Me” album and television specific and as a longtime composer for “Sesame Road,” died on Dec. 30 at a medical centre in Belleville, N.J. He was 82.
His spouse, Cathy (Merritt) Lawrence, stated the cause was a number of organ failure.
Mr. Lawrence experienced a reward for catchy tunes and track constructions that would charm to youthful minds.
“One of the most successful gadgets, and for kids just one of the most essential, is repetition,” he wrote in “How to Compose Music for Little ones,” an essay on his weblog. “Did you create a very first line you like? Why not repeat it?”
The essay went on to clearly show how composers from Beethoven to John Lennon experienced done just that, and Mr. Lawrence utilized the system frequently on “Sesame Street” classics like “Fuzzy and Blue (and Orange),” a jaunty 1981 variety with lyrics by David Axelrod.
One particular of Mr. Lawrence’s most fascinating tunes was also one particular of his first for the children’s market: the title track of “Free to Be … You and Me,” the star-studded 1972 album and ebook conceived by Marlo Thomas. The document, total of songs and tales celebrating tolerance and busting gender stereotypes, became an enduring hit and was lately selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress’s Countrywide Recording Registry of culturally sizeable is effective.
Mr. Lawrence, working with the lyricist Bruce Hart, was supplied the task of coming up with the opening amount. A unforgettable folk melody recorded by the New Seekers, it begins with a banjo, an instrument not usually heard in the pop and rock songs of that time.
“Banjo was great for the introduction of this tune,” Mr. Lawrence mentioned on the radio software “Soundcheck” in an interview marking the 40th anniversary of the album. “It is kind of timeless. It says joy. It claims non-sophistication — whilst some of the album is really innovative. It suggests: ‘Listen up. This is an strange instrument you don’t hear every single working day. It is going to established up a music you are likely to like.’”
Ms. Thomas experienced recruited a formidable roster of stars to carry out on the history. In addition to producing the audio for quite a few of the music, Mr. Lawrence, as the project’s tunes director, experienced the process of overseeing recording classes. That meant doing the job with a quirky array of performers, some of them specialist singers and some of them, like Mel Brooks and the soccer participant Rosey Grier, not.
Mr. Lawrence was a relative mysterious at the time. Recording Diana Ross singing “When We Mature Up” (a different “Free to Be” tune for which he wrote the music) at Motown’s studios in Los Angeles delivered him with a pinch-myself instant.
“I arrived at Motown Studios and imagined about the many famed recording artists who experienced recorded there, none far more famous than Diana Ross,” he wrote on his web site. “I realized that the total ‘Free to Be’ venture was lifting my vocation to new heights.”
The album was a runaway best seller, and Mr. Lawrence went on to compose a lot more than 300 music for “Sesame Street.” Beginning in 1989, he was nominated consistently, together with the show’s other composers and lyricists, for Daytime Emmy Awards for songs path and composition. He won three instances.
Mr. Lawrence didn’t operate only on children’s content. He composed the new music for the 1973 baseball drama “Bang the Drum Slowly,” the 1976 horror motion picture “Alice, Sweet Alice” and other movies, and collaborated on a number of stage musicals.
Ms. Thomas, even though, reported he was the fantastic alternative to attain younger audiences.
“‘Free to Be … You and Me’ was 1st and normally a children’s venture,” she explained by e-mail, “so it expected a composer and musical director who could develop music that sparked the imaginations and touched the hearts of girls and boys everywhere. Stephen was that particular person. I loved him and I cherished operating with him.”
Stephen James Lawrence was born on Sept. 5, 1939, in Manhattan. His father, Allan, was head of a manufacturing company, and his mom, Helen (Kupfer) Lawrence, was a homemaker.
He grew up in Wonderful Neck, on Lengthy Island. He started out getting piano classes at 5, and at 17 he gained a New York radio station’s jazz piano contest the prize was classes with the pianist Mary Lou Williams.
Whilst majoring in new music at Hofstra Faculty (now Hofstra College), wherever he graduated in 1961, he composed tunes for college student reveals and other entertainments. One was a musical, “The Sensitive Contact” the guide and lyrics ended up by a fellow scholar, Francis Ford Coppola.
Mr. Lawrence came to the “Free to Be” challenge by Mr. Hart, with whom he experienced created some tracks and whose wife, Carole Hart, was producing the challenge with Ms. Thomas. The two women of all ages asked Mr. Hart and Mr. Lawrence to arrive up with a song that would introduce the album and convey what it was about. It was Mr. Hart who came up with the phrase “Free to be you and me” and designed that concept into a whole tune lyric, which he introduced to Mr. Lawrence.
“As occasionally transpires,” Mr. Lawrence recalled in his blog, “I obtained an thought proper absent and concluded the music in a person day.”
The label, Bell Records, informed the group to be expecting to market about 15,000 copies. As an alternative sales soared past the million mark. A 1974 tv edition, with Mr. Lawrence as tunes director, included to the phenomenon.
The Harts (he died in 2006, she in 2018) and Mr. Lawrence labored together on other jobs, which include the 1979 tv motion picture “Sooner or Later on,” which yielded the Rex Smith strike “You Consider My Breath Absent,” prepared by Mr. Hart and Mr. Lawrence.
Mr. Lawrence commenced creating for “Sesame Street” in the early 1980s and continued to do so for years. The occupation gave him a opportunity to indulge in a broad assortment of musical models. One of his earliest compositions for the demonstrate was “Kermit’s Minstrel Song” (1981, lyrics by Mr. Axelrod), which known as to brain Renaissance-era tunes. Ms. Lawrence mentioned that 1 of her favorites was “Gina’s Dream” (lyrics by Jon Stone), in which Mr. Lawrence did a fairly great task of imitating Puccini.
Mr. Lawrence lived in Bloomfield, N.J. His marriage to Christine Jones finished in divorce in 2000. In addition to his spouse, he is survived by a daughter from his initially relationship, Hannah Jones Anderson Ms. Lawrence’s sons, Sam and Nicholas Kline and a grandson.