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Stephen Sondheim Biography

Birth Name:
Stephen Joshua Sondheim
Birth Place:
New York, New York, United States
Composer, lyricist

Fast Facts

  • Having been abandoned as a child by his father and emotionally scarred by his mother, he found a father figure and mentor in family friend Oscar Hammerstein II
  • Made his mark on Broadway as lyricist for the groundbreaking 1957 musical West Side Story
  • Broadway credit as a composer was delayed when Ethel Merman balked at his hiring two years later for the musical Gypsy; he did write the lyrics, while Jule Styne composed the music
  • First music-and-lyrics credit came with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 1962
  • Wrote "Send in the Clowns" for 1973's A Little Night Music; it was recorded by Judy Collins in 1975 and became a pop hit
  • A fondness for puzzles led to cowriting, with actor Anthony Perkins, an original screenplay for the intricate mystery The Last of Sheila (1973)
  • Won a Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for the musical Sunday in the Park With George, about pointillist painter George Seurat
  • National Endowment for the Arts awarded him the National Medal of Freedom in 1996
  • Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015


  • 1994Grammy-Best Musical Show Album: winner
  • 1994Tony-Original Musical Score: winner
  • 1991Golden Globe-Best Original Song - Motion Picture: nominated
  • 1990Oscar-Best Achievement in Music (Original Song): winner
  • 1988Tony-Score (Musical): winner
  • 1984Tony-Score: nominated
  • 1973Edgar Allan Poe Awards-Best Screenplay: winner