Meredith Willson

About Meredith Willson

Call him The Music Man: Composer Meredith Willson captured something uniquely American in his hearty 1957 Broadway show of that name, which he called “an Iowan’s attempt to pay tribute to his home state.” Eight years in the making, the musical about con man Harold Hill spawned the hit songs “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “Till There Was You” (which The Beatles went on to record in 1963). Born in 1902 in Mason City, Iowa, Willson studied at Juilliard and became a proficient flutist as a youngster, playing in John Philip Sousa’s band from 1921 to 1924. In the late 1920s, he was also the principal flute of the New York Philharmonic, under Arturo Toscanini. Willson then worked as a concert director for San Francisco radio station KFRC and later as a music director for NBC radio in Hollywood. For his work in the movies, Willson received an Academy Award nomination for Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940). The following year, Glenn Miller scored a hit with Willson’s “You and I.” But perhaps Willson’s best-known song is the 1951 holiday standard “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” which spawned wide-ranging covers from Perry Como to Michael Bublé to Celtic Woman, among others. Willson died in 1984, aged 82, but his contributions to popular music endure through revivals like the Hugh Jackman–led 2022 production of The Music Man.

Mason City, IA, United States
May 18, 1902
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