His lyrics brought "Bye Bye Birdie" to life on Broadway

Browse Song Catalog: ASCAP

Lee Adams


Co-writer of many notable Broadway standards.

Lee Adams, the Tony Award-winning lyricist behind the smash Broadway productions Bye Bye Birdie, Applause and Golden Boy, was born in Mansfield, Ohio on August 14, 1924.

Adams began his professional career as a working journalist, having first gained a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Ohio State University, and later, a Master's degree from the renowned Columbia School of journalism in New York.

For 10 years following his Master's degree in 1950, he worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer and editor, and radio writer and interviewer. During those same years, he began writing lyrics for shows at the summer camp, Green Mansions as well as special material for nightclub acts. He was also actively writing songs for composer Charles Strouse, whom he had met in 1949, for theatrical revues in New York and London.

The first production for the team of Adams and Strouse was the musical, Bye Bye Birdie. It debuted on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre on April 14, 1960, starring Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera. It was an instant success and the initial production ran for over 600 performances earning the 1960 Tony Award for Best Musical. Three years later a film version was released starring Janet Leigh, Dick Van Dyke, and Ann Margaret.

The next production for the team of Adams and Strouse was: All American, which opened at the Winter Garden Theater on Broadway on March 19, 1962. Two years later on October 20, Golden Boy, starring Sammy Davis Jr. opened at the Majestic and Adams and Strouse again received critical acclaim and success with a 569 show performance run and a Tony nomination for Best Musical.

Perhaps the most successful of the Adams and Strouse productions opened on March 30, 1970, at the Palace Theatre. Applause was based on the movie screenplay All About Eve and the original cast included legendary film actress Lauren Bacall. The production won the Tony Award for Best Musical and ran for over 850 performances.

In addition to his notable Broadway and London West End credits, Adams, with Strouse, wrote a much-acclaimed London musical, I and Albert, in 1972. Thereafter, Adams became active in films and television. His theme for TVs long-running All in the Family, titled "Those Were the Days, has been heard more often than any other television theme. He also wrote the lyrics for the acclaimed film, The Night They Raided Minsky's.

Among his prodigious output of songs, a number have become legitimate standards. These include "Put on a Happy Face," "Kids," "One Boy," "Applause," "Night Song," "Once Upon a Time," "This is Your Life," "You've Got Possibilities," "I Want to Be with You" and "A Lot of Living to Do."

"Bye Bye Birdie," with Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera, ran for over 600 performances and won the 1960 Best Musical Tony.