Jerry (Lewis) Bock


Whatever Jerry Bock's achievements since the 1960s, they will always be overshadowed by the phenomenal success of his best-known contribution to musical theatre: the music for Fiddler on the Roof. His partnership with lyricist Sheldon Harnick produced 7 musicals in 12 years but since its dissolution in 1970, Bock seems to have produced nothing of note. A master of creating the sound world of a dramatic locale, Bock evoked the popular idioms of the 1930s for Fiorello!, and a Jewish vernacular  style for Fiddler.

Bock was born in New Haven, Connecticut on 23 November 1928 and studied music at the University of Wisconsin. After finishing university, he worked with Larry Holofcener and Danny and Neil Simon, writing revues and songs for television. A few songs from a Sammy Davis jr vehicle , Mr Wonderful, were his only successes.

In 1958 Bock began his 12 years of collaboration with Sheldon Harnick. They scored their first critical and public success in 1959 with Fiorello!, based on the life of former New York Mayor, Fiorello La Guardia. It scooped the Tony Award for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Bock's highly regarded music for Tenderloin (1960) and She Loves Me (1963) failed to win widespread popular appeal, but all that changed in 1964 with Fiddler on the Roof.

Fiddler ran for a record 3242 performances on Broadway and proved a tough success to follow up. By the time of The Rothschilds, based on the famous banking family, in 1970, the partnership was experiencing creative difficulties. Bock and Harnick split shortly afterwards and since then Bock has failed to register any professional success.

Despite the lack of any Broadway musical for more than thirty years, Bock's achievements in the seven musicals he co-wrote are, nevertheless, considerable. The continuing popularity of musicals such as She Loves Me and, particularly, Fiddler ensures that his music will likely be played for many years to come.

Related composers: Lionel BartStephen Sondheim, Richard Rodgers

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