Joe Darion

About Joe Darion

b. 30 January 1911 (1917 is also cited), New York City, New York, USA, d. 16 June 2001, Lebanon, New Hampshire, USA. An eclectic lyricist, Darion had Top 10 successes in the early 50s, including ‘Changing Partners’, music by Larry Coleman, recorded by Patti Page, and ‘Ricochet’, music by Coleman and Norman Gimbel, recorded by Teresa Brewer. His first Broadway show was shinbone alley (1957), based upon Don Marquis’ archie and mehitabel stories. Darion collaborated on the book with Mel Brooks and also wrote lyrics with composer George Kleinsinger. Among their songs were ‘What Do We Care?’, ‘Way Down Blues’, ‘Be A Pussycat’ and ‘What The Hell’, sung by Eartha Kitt, ‘The Lightning Bug Song’, and ‘The Moth Song’, sung by Eddie Bracken. Although the show ran only from 13 April until 25 May 1957, it attracted critical favour. In 1971, shinbone alley became an animated film, directed by John D. Wilson to Brooks and Darion’s script.
Darion’s next Broadway show also found critical favour and was, this time, a massive commercial success. Opening on 22 November 1965, Man Of La Mancha ran for a total of 2, 328 performances. Mitch Leigh’s music and Darion’s lyrics brought them a Tony Award for Best Score. The show had a London run of 253 performances from 24 April 1968, and was revived on Broadway in 1972, 1977, 1992 and 2002. A film version came in 1972 and numerous touring company and regional productions followed. The songs included ‘I’m Only Thinking Of Him’, ‘Little Bird, Little Bird’, ‘What Do You Want From Me?’ and ‘I Really Like Him’. The big hit, which achieved a substantial life outside the show, was ‘The Impossible Dream’. After Man Of La Mancha’s original opening, Darion wrote book and lyrics for Illya Darling (1967), music by Manos Hadjidakis, which starred Melina Mercouri and was based on her popular film Never On Sunday (1960). The show ran for 320 performances. Darion also contributed English commentaries for the Yiddish musical play, The Megilla Of Itzik Manger (1968). In addition to his pop and Broadway work, Darion also wrote librettos for oratorios and cantatas, most often with composer Ezra Laderman. Reportedly, Darion was working at the end of his life on a show entitled Oswego.

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