Entertainment Celebrity Hello, Dolly! musical icon Jerry Herman dead, aged 88
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Hello, Dolly! musical icon Jerry Herman dead, aged 88

Jerry Herman, who composed some of the most popular stage show musicals of his era, has died. Photo: Twitter
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Celebrity tributes are flowing for Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist Jerry Herman whose indelible Broadway hits included Hello, Dolly!, Mame and La Cage aux Folles, has died aged 88.

The musical icon, 88, died in Miami on Thursday of pulmonary complications after being taken to a hospital for chest pains, the family said.

“There has been no other music which took our breath away, that made us hum and cheer and respect ourselves more than a majestic Jerry Herman musical,” said Jane Dorian, Herman’s goddaughter.

“We are going to miss him, but the genius of Jerry Herman will live on through his music.”

The eternally boyish Herman may not have been regarded as highly as composer-lyricists like Frank Loesser or Stephen Sondheim, but his biggest hits rank as the most popular musicals of their eras.

In the 1960s came Hello, Dolly!, one of the most recognised and often-performed musicals, which has been revived on Broadway and around the world countless times.

His 1980s hit La Cage aux Folles has also become something of a perennial, with Broadway revivals in 2004 and 2010.

Herman has been recognised for his easy, old-fashioned melodies and uncomplicated lyrics.

Tunes like the Hello, Dolly! title song, Mame’s If He Walked Into My Life, and I Am What I Am from La Cage, have become pop standards recorded by dozens of performers.

After a number of disappointments in the 1970s, Herman returned triumphantly with La Cage, which won several Tonys, including best musical of 1984.

He first found success on Broadway in 1961 with Milk and Honey, a collaboration with playwright Don Appell, which ran for almost 18 months and drew Tony nominations for best musical and composer.

Herman then auditioned for producer David Merrick, who was looking for someone to write the score to a musical adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker.

He prepared the song Hello, Dolly! and three others and won the assignment.

The show opened in January 1964 and grossed more than $US4 million its first year, winning a bevy of Tonys including best musical and a statuette for Herman’s score and lyrics.

Hello, Dolly! became a major popular hit by Louis Armstrong, who appeared in the film version starring Barbra Streisand, and is one of the most recognised Broadway show tunes ever.

Gerald Herman was born in New York City and grew up in New Jersey.

He was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1981 and the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1986.

Herman drew a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre in 2009 and won a 2010 Drama Desk Award Special Award as well as being feted with a Kennedy Centre Honour in 2010.

Herman was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1985 and wrote about his long-term survival with the virus in his 1996 autobiography Showtune: A Memoir by Jerry Herman, co-written with Marilyn Stasio.

Herman is survived by his long time partner Terry Marler and his goddaughters Dorian and Sarah Haspel.