Creators of Hair James Rado (left) and Galt MacDermot attend a revival of the musical in 2009. Rado died on Tuesday, according to friend and publicist Merle Frimark. He was 90 years old.
NEW YORK — James Rado, co-creator of the groundbreaking hippie musical Hair, who celebrated protest, pot and free love and pioneered the sound of rock on Broadway, has died. He was 90 years old.
Rado died Tuesday night in New York from cardiorespiratory arrest, according to friend and publicist Merle Frimark.
Hairwhich has a story and lyrics by Rado and Gerome Ragni and music by Galt MacDermot, was Broadway’s first rock musical, the first Broadway show to feature full nudity, and the first to feature a gay kiss.
Hair made possible other rock musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar and Lease. As hamiltonit was one of the few Broadway shows in recent decades to find its songs on the pop charts.
The so-called “American tribal love-rock musical” had its world premiere at the Public Theater in New York’s East Village in 1967 and moved the following year to Broadway, where the musical gave more than 1,800 performances. Rado played Claude, a young man about to be drafted and sent to the Vietnam War.
Clive Barnes, theater critic for The New York Timescalled the show “the first Broadway musical in some time to have the authentic voice of today rather than the day before yesterday”. The New York Post said he had “an involuntary charm”, an infectious good humor and a “youthful enthusiasm” that “makes it hard to resist”. Varietyhowever, called him “crazy”.
It lost the Tony in 1969 to the more traditional 1776 but won a Grammy Award. The 2009 revival won Best Revival Tony. The show was revived on Broadway in 1977 and again in 2009. It was made into a film directed by Milos Forman in 1979 starring Treat Williams and Beverly D’Angelo.
Hair spawned four of the top four singles on the US pop charts, including the No. 1 hit Aquarius/Let the sun in by Fifth Dimension, which won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Group in 1970. Others included The Cowsills’ “Hair”, singer Oliver’s “Good Morning, Starshine” and “Easy to Be Hard” from Three Dog Night. The cast album itself stayed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for 13 weeks.
Hair tells the story of Claude and Berger, best buddies who regain their freedom in the late 1960s. of flower children, drug-addicted hippies and indignant tourists who do not approve of wild events. In one song, Claude poignantly sings, “Why do I live, why do I die, tell me where I’m going, tell me why.”
Hair creators Galt Macdermot, (left) and James Rado in 2009.
The show is playful and chaotic, but there is also a sense of outrage in its protests against war, racism, sexism, pollution and the general hypocrisy of an era dominated by American involvement in Vietnam.
“I’d still like ‘Hair’ to represent what it was about back then,” Rado told The Associated Press in 1993. “‘Hair’ had a spiritual message, and I hope it has a mystical message passing through – there is more to life than the way it was designed for us, explained, taught.”
The songs of Hair have been used in everything from the movies Forrest Gump, Minions and The 40 year old virgin on TV shows like Joy, So you think you can dance and My name is Earl. Billboard the magazine ranks “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” at No. 66 of the Top 100 Songs of All Time.
In 2019, the original 1968 Broadway cast recording was inducted into the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden deemed “these auditory treasures worthy of preservation because of their cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance to the nation’s recorded sound heritage.”
Rado was born in Venice, California, and raised in Rochester, NY, and Washington, DC After serving two years in the United States Navy, he moved to New York and studied acting with Paula and Lee Strasberg.
Rado was part of the set of the Broadway play Marathon ’33 in 1963 and played Richard Lionheart in The Lion in Winter in 1966 against Christopher Walken. He met Ragni when he was cast in the off-Broadway musical Put your head down and die.
Both were interested in spawning a new type of show and focused on the hippie scene. They wrote the screenplay while sharing an apartment in Hoboken, NJ Rado is behind the Hair role of conscript Claude on Broadway.
Hair encountered resistance across the country. In addition to the use of four-letter words, disregard for authority, sexual references, and crude humor, the end of Act 1 had the entire cast strip naked on “Where Do I Go.” and there was what many believed to be a desecration. of the American flag.
There were pickets in Evansville, Ind. City officials in Chattanooga, Tennessee, declined a request to hold the show, determining that it would not be “in the best interests of the community”. In Denver, police threatened to arrest anyone who appeared naked on stage. A visit to Boston was challenged in court on the basis of flag desecration.
The original Public Theater production had cut out the nudity scene, but the creators wanted it back for the Broadway debut. Under the law at the time, New York City allowed nudity on stage as long as the actors didn’t move, which is why the entire cast of Hair stood side by side, naked and perfectly still.
After HairRado wrote the music and lyrics for the off-Broadway show Rainbow, co-author of the book with his brother, Ted Rado. He then partnered with Ragni to create the show’s book and lyrics. Sun. Ragni died in 1991. Rado wrote a new show called American soldier With his brother.
In 2009 Rado, MacDermot and Ragni were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The Fifth Dimension’s Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. were joined on stage by the then-Broadway cast for a finale that had the ceremony’s nearly 1,000 guests on their toes. MacDermot died in 2018.
Rado told the Hudson Reporter in 2009 that none of the show’s creators anticipated that it would have such a huge impact. “We thought we had stumbled upon a great idea, and something that could potentially be a hit on Broadway, without ever thinking of a distant future.”
He is survived by his brother Ted Rado, his sister-in-law Kay Rado, his nieces Melanie Khoury, Emily DiBona and Melissa Stuart, his great-nieces and a great-nephew.
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