Loewe,  Frederick

Frederick “Fritz” Loewe (June 10, 1901—February 14, 1988), was a German-American composer and collaborator with Alan Jay Lerner on a series of hit musicals, including the phenomenally successful My Fair Lady (1956).

Loewe was elected to The Lambs in 1933 as a professional member. Nine years later he met Lerner at the Club grill and they became friends and collaborators. Loewe was so grateful for the partnership that he left a small “piece” of their hit show Brigadoon (1947) to The Lambs.

Loewe was born in Berlin. His father was a Viennese actor and operetta tenor. Young Frederick was a child prodigy, playing the piano at age 5, composing for his father’s presentations at 7, and at 13 becoming the youngest soloist to appear with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. He received advanced musical instruction from Ferruccio Busoni and Eugène d’Albert. Loewe wrote a popular song, “Katrina,” at age 15, and more than 1 million copies of the sheet music for it were eventually sold.

Loewe arrived in the United States in 1924 and worked in a variety of odd jobs for the next 10 years. In 1934 he contributed music to the Broadway play Petticoat Fever, and by 1936 he was writing music for Broadway revues, but he received little acclaim. Loew collaborated with lyricist Earle Crooker, also a Lamb, on the musical plays Salute to Spring (1937) and Great Lady (1938), but they similarly failed to gain attention.

In 1942 Loewe met Alan Jay Lerner at the Lambs, and asked him to work on revising Salute to Spring for a Detroit producer. They continued their collaboration through two failures, What’s Up? (1943) and The Day Before Spring (1945), before achieving success on Broadway with Brigadoon (1947). This was followed by Paint Your Wagon (1951), My Fair Lady, the film Gigi (1958), and Camelot (1960). Personal differences between Loewe and Lerner surfaced during the writing of Camelot, and they suspended their collaboration for more than a decade. They reunited to adapt Gigi for the stage (1973) and to write the score for the film The Little Prince (1974).

The score of My Fair Lady was among the most successful ever to emerge from the American musical theater. More than 5 million copies of the Broadway-cast recording were sold, and, of Loewe’s 16 very different melodies, “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “On the Street Where You Live,” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” underwent innumerable arrangements and renditions. His music ranged from high romance (“If Ever I Would Leave You” from Camelot and “On the Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady) to lighthearted melodies (“The Night They Invented Champagne” and “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” from Gigi) to subtle settings for nearly spoken songs (“Why Can’t the English?” from My Fair Lady and “How to Handle a Woman” from Camelot).

After Camelot, Loewe, now 60 years old, withdrew from composing, although he did return to work together with Lerner one last time on the unsuccessful 1974 film The Little Prince. Loewe’s music springs from the European operetta tradition, but he adapted that tradition to appeal to an American audience with complete success. Although each of his classic shows is in a unique style reflecting the period and location of the story, each of them remains unmistakably the work of Frederick Loewe.

Frederick Loewe died in Palm Springs, California on February 14, 1988. He is interred in Desert Memorial Park, Cathedral City, California.