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NEW YORK (AP) — James Rado, co-creator of the groundbreaking hippie musical “Hair,” which 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.

“Hair,” which 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 homosexual kiss.

“Hair” made possible other rock musicals like “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Rent”. Like “Hamilton,” it 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 Times, called 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”, infectious good humor and “youthful enthusiasm” that “make it hard to resist”. Variety, however, called it “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 Fifth Dimension’s No. 1 hit “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” which won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Performance pop vocal by a group in 1970. Others included “Hair” by the Cowsills, “Good Morning, Starshine” by lead singer Oliver, and “Easy to Be Hard” by Three Dog Night. The cast album itself remained at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for 13 weeks

“Hair” tells the story of Claude and Berger, best buddies who find freedom at the end of the 1960s. Between drafts of cards, love-ins, bad LSD trips and parade of protest marches, the two wander in a New York filled with flower children, drug-addicted hippies and outraged tourists who don’t approve of wild happenings. In one song, Claude poignantly sings, “Why do I live, why do I die, tell me where I’m going, tell me why.”

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 be about what it was about back then,” Rado told The Associated Press in 1993. taught.

The songs from “Hair” have been used in everything from the movies “Forrest Gump,” “Minions” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” to TV shows like “Glee,” “So You Think You Can Dance” and “My name is Earl.” Billboard magazine ranks “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” 66th on the 100 Greatest 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 said “these auditory treasures are worth preserving 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, New York 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 on the set for the Broadway play “Marathon ’33” in 1963 and played Richard Lionheart in “The Lion in Winter” in 1966 opposite Christopher Walken. He met Ragni when he was cast in the off-Broadway musical “Hang Down Your Head 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, New Jersey. Rado originated the “Hair” role of rookie Claude on Broadway.

“Hair” met with 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, Indiana. City officials in Chattanooga, Tennessee, denied a request to host the show, determining it would not be “in the best interest 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 law at the time, New York City allowed nudity on stage as long as the actors weren’t moving, which is why the entire cast of “Hair” stood naked and perfectly still.

After “Hair”, Rado wrote the music and lyrics for the off-Broadway show “Rainbow”, co-authoring the book with his brother, Ted Rado. He then teamed up with Ragni to create the book and lyrics for the show “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 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, never 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.

Marc Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits



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