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Will Holt

Writer, Conception, Lyricist
( b. Apr 30, 1929 Portland, Maine, USA - d. May 31, 2015 Los Angeles, California, USA ) Male
Relations: Husband of Dolly Jonah (? - 1983) her death
Will Holt was a songwriter whose lyrics for the 1970 musical The Me Nobody Knows were nominated for a Tony Award, and whose Latin-tinged folk song "Lemon Tree" became a musical signpost of the 1960s, covered by myriad artists and finding its way into advertising and the literature of the Vietnam War.

Mr. Holt spent much of his musical career creating theater projects. They included The World of Kurt Weill in Song, an Off Broadway revue that he conceived and performed with the Viennese soprano Martha Schlamme in a handful of different incarnations in 1963 and 1964. He also wrote a pair of one-acts, twinned under the title That 5 A.M. Jazz, and produced Off Broadway in 1964, starring James Coco. The first was a playlet in the form of a creation parable, the second a rhythm-and-blues musical set in a Las Vegas hotel suite. Another project Mr. Holt conceived and staged was a tribute to the theater music of Leonard Bernstein in 1965. A Walk on the Wild Side, a musical he wrote based on Nelson Algren's novel of New Orleans, had its premiere in Los Angeles in 1988.

Mr. Holt's first foray on Broadway -- a 1969 musical called Come Summer, for which he wrote the book and lyrics -- vanished quickly after unfavorable reviews. He had much better success in the 1970s, lending a significant hand to three well-received shows.

The first, The Me Nobody Knows, a surprise hit that began Off Broadway, was about city youngsters living in poverty and was based on essays written by New York schoolchildren. Mr. Holt's lyrics, to a pop-rock score by Gary William Friedman that evoked both pain and hope, were all adapted from the ideas of the original child writers.

Though Mr. Holt failed to win the Tony (Stephen Sondheim did, for Company), the show ran on Broadway for nearly a year, first at the Helen Hayes Theater and then at the Longacre. He subsequently wrote the book for Over Here!, a 1974 musical about life on the home front during World War II, starring two of the Andrews Sisters, Patty and Maxene, and Ann Reinking. And in 1975, with the actress and singer Linda Hopkins, he conceived and wrote the show Me and Bessie, which starred Ms. Hopkins as the blues singer Bessie Smith and ran for more than 450 performances.

Mr. Holt was part of the folk-music revival of the 1950s and '60s. His melancholy song about the passage of time, "Raspberries, Strawberries," was a hit for the Kingston Trio. His most enduring song, "Lemon Tree," was written in Chicago in the late 1950s for a nightclub act he was performing with Dolly Jonah, his wife at the time. The melody was adapted from a Brazilian song, "Meu Limão, Meu Limoeiro." and it retained its samba-like lilt.

Mr. Holt's later stage projects included three shows with short Broadway lives: Music Is, a 1976 musical adaptation of Twelfth Night, for which he wrote the lyrics in a collaboration with the director and book writer George Abbott and the composer Richard Adler; a 1978 musical, Platinum, starring Alexis Smith as a film star of the '40s and '50s attempting a comeback as a rock singer, for which he wrote the lyrics and, with Bruce Vilanch, the book; and A Kurt Weill Cabaret (1979), in which he performed and also translated some of the lyrics.

Source: The New York Times obituary 

ProductionsDate of Productions
A Kurt Weill Cabaret
[Musical, Revue, Original]
  • Lyrics translated by Will Holt
  • Featuring songs with lyrics by Will Holt
Nov 05, 1979 - Jun 01, 1980
[Musical, Original]
  • Book by Will Holt
  • Based on an original idea by Will Holt
  • Lyrics by Will Holt
Nov 12, 1978 - Dec 10, 1978
Music Is
[Musical, Comedy, Original]
  • Lyrics by Will Holt
Dec 20, 1976 - Dec 26, 1976
Me and Bessie
[Musical, Original]
  • Book by Will Holt
  • Conceived by Will Holt
Oct 22, 1975 - Dec 05, 1976
Over Here!
[Musical, Original]
  • Book by Will Holt
Mar 06, 1974 - Jan 04, 1975
The Me Nobody Knows
[Musical, Original]
  • Lyrics by Will Holt
Dec 18, 1970 - Nov 14, 1971
Come Summer
[Musical, Original]
  • Book by Will Holt
  • Lyrics by Will Holt
Mar 18, 1969 - Mar 22, 1969
1971 Tony Award® Best Lyrics
The Me Nobody Knows [nominee]
Lyrics by Will Holt
1970 Drama Desk Award Most Promising Musical Writer
nomineeThe Me Nobody Knows [winner]
Lyrics by Will Holt
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