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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Galt MacDermot--An appreciation

Galt MacDermot's "Let the Sunshine In"

A three-time Grammy winner, composer Galt MacDermot, who died on Dec.17 one day before his 90th birthday, was best-known for co-writing, with lyricists James Rado and Gerome Ragni, the landmark Broadway musical Hair.

“I last saw my beloved Mister MacDermot while singing with Jim Rado last year at Jim’s birthday celebration,” recalls Broadway and rock chanteuse Annie Golden, who starred as Jeannie Ryan in the 1979 movie version of Hair.

“We sang selections from Hair, and while Galt was frail and using a walker, he was still beaming proudly at his joyous love-fest legacy! And he was accompanied by his son Vincent, who is himself an accomplished trumpet player and has accompanied me in many orchestras.”

Besides Hair, Montreal native MacDermot composed the Tony-winning rock musical Two Gentlemen of Verona. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2009, and the following year received the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

“MacDermot's music also made a significant impact on the hip-hop community, with notable artists such as Public Enemy, Faith Evans, and Busta Rhymes sampling his work,” noted the Recording Academy’s president/CEO Neil Portnow. In fact, MacDermot, who worked with jazz and funk musicians like Bernard Purdie and Idris Muhammad, was sampled extensively.

“The Broadway community is mourning his passing this morning--#Hair will love forever--but best believe he was the hip-hop community’s too,” Questlove wrote on Instagram. “It fed Nineties hip hop something crazy!”

Concluded Portnow: “The music and theater communities have lost an extraordinary talent. MacDermot will be dearly missed, but his compositions will continue to influence music for years to come.”

Jim Rado and Annie Golden

Annie Golden singing songs from "Hair" with Jim Rado (Photo: JR Rost)



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