Obituary: Marshall Barer

MARSHALL BARER, who many of his legion of friends called "the best living lyricist and the worst living house guest", began his career as a lyricist and song writer in the late Forties while working as a very successful commercial artist in New York.

Born in Astoria, New York City, in 1923, he attended Cavanagh Art School there and then worked in advertising agencies as an artist and designer, but always wrote songs in his spare time.

He began by writing special material for supper club artistes like Celeste Holm and Dwight Fiske, then graduated to writing "pop" songs with Alec Wilder for such stars as Harry Belafonte, Sarah Vaughan and Nat "King" Cole. A children's opera, The Impossible Forest (also with Wilder), so impressed executives of Golden Records they hired him as staff lyricist, and in the course of his stay there he wrote well over 100 songs.

In 1951 he met Dean Fuller and they began collaborating on songs for the musical theatre, beginning with the revue Walk Tall in 1954. Six Barer- Fuller songs were featured in New Faces of 1956 and another four in Beatrice Lillie's Ziegfeld Follies of 1957. They also wrote special material for Bing Crosby and Sid Caesar. In 1959 Barer wrote the libretto and lyrics for the musical Once upon a Mattress, with music by Mary Rodgers (typically, Marshall referred to her as "you know, Dorothy's daughter"), a charmingly comical rendering of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy-tale "The Princess and the Pea" that introduced the comedienne Carol Burnett to the Broadway stage.

Witty, sophisticated, romantic songs and show adaptations (many of them disappointingly never produced) poured from Barer's prolific pen - among them Dancing on the Air (an adaptation of Shaw's The Devil's Disciple) with Dean Fuller, a musical version of Around the World in Eighty Days with music by Michel Legrand that included a marvellous four-melody quartet built around the well-known song from the movie, and, with Hugh Martin, the charming 1962 musical A Little Night Music, in which Jeanette MacDonald was to return to Broadway and in which Liza Minnelli would have had her first featured part. Alas, MacDonald died and the show was never produced.

Barer went on to work with many other composers, including David Raksin, Duke Ellington, Linda Rodgers Malneck, David Ross, and William Roy. "The hills," he wryly noted, "are alive with the sound of unpublished music, mostly from unproduced musicals."

His "most heard" song has to be the "Mighty Mouse Theme (Here I Come to Save the Day)" for the famous cartoon, although two of his favourite artists, Michael Feinstein and Andrea Marcovicci, often feature less well- known Barer numbers like "On Such a Night as This" and "Wasn't It Romantic?" in their shows. Both often attended his legendary Sunday night soirees at Venice Beach for other singers and songwriters brave enough to eat his food and risk the razor edge of his tongue.

A unique song stylist, a wicked parodist (his take on Rodgers and Hammerstein's "It's a Grand Night for Singing" has to be heard to be believed) and a superb storyteller, Barer began his own cabaret act in the 1970s, playing in clubs in Los Angeles and New York where he would interpret - he was a stickler for "just the right word" and "interpret" is certainly it - the lyrics of his own "What'll I Do (With All the Love I was Savin' for You)" "Shall We Join the Ladies (And Make One Great Big Mama)" "Too Young (For a Man My Age)" and "If I Knew Now (What I Knew Then)". To see him perform - again, just the right word - was a delight, and he delighted in performing.

Just as he had always said he would, he told songs and sang stories right up to the end. Eccentric, endearing, "Anglo-sexual, psycho-Semitic" (by his own description), impossibly gifted and largely unknown except to aficionados of "lost" musicals, he was, and will remain, a treasure.

Marshall Louis Barer, lyricist, librettist, singer, songwriter and director: born New York 19 February 1923; died Santa Fe, New Mexico 25 August 1998.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering