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Howard Ashman 1950-1991

Country : Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Profession : Lyricist, Librettist, Musician
Date of birth : 1950-05-17
Date of death : 1991-03-14
Cause of Death : AIDS

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Howard Ashman

Howard Ashman (May 17, 1950 - March 14, 1991) was an American playwright and movie music lyricist. Ashman first studied at Boston University and Goddard College (with a stop at Tufts University's Summer Theater) and then went on to achieve his master's degree from Indiana University in 1974. He collaborated with Alan Menken on several films, notably animated features for Disney, Ashman writing the lyrics and Menken composing the scores.

Ashman was born Howard Elliott Ashman into a Jewish family in Baltimore, Maryland and was the artistic director of the WPA Theater in New York. His play, The Confirmation, was produced in 1979 at Princeton's McCarter Theater and starred Herschel Bernardi. He first worked with Alan Menken on a 1979 musical adapted from Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. They also collaborated on Little Shop of Horrors with Ashman as director, lyricist, and librettist.

Ashman was director, lyricist and bookwriter for the 1986 Broadway musical, Smile (music by Marvin Hamlisch). Also in 1986, Ashman wrote the screenplay for the Frank Oz directed film adaptation of his musical, Little Shop of Horrors (film), as well as contributing the lyrics for two new songs, "Some Fun Now" and "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space," the latter of which received an Academy Award nomination. Along with Menken, Ashman was the co-recipient of two Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes and two Oscars. His second Academy Award in 1992 was awarded posthumously for Best Song and was accepted by his partner, Bill Lauch.

He succumbed to complications from AIDS at the age of 40 in New York City (some sources say Los Angeles, California) during the making of both Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Ashman and Menken had finished the songs for Beauty and the Beast and 11 songs intended for Aladdin, although only three were featured in the finished film ("Arabian Nights", "Friend Like Me", and "Prince Ali"). Tim Rice was brought in to finish the Aladdin songs with Menken.

He was posthumously named a Disney Legend in 2001. Beauty and the Beast was dedicated to him, "To our Friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman 1950-1991"

An album of Ashman singing his own work entitled Howard Sings Ashman was released on November 11, 2008 by PS Classics as part of the Library of Congress' "Songwriter Series."

His interment was located at Oheb Shalom Memorial Park in Baltimore.

Best known works

  • God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1979) (lyricist, librettist and director)
  • Little Shop of Horrors (1982) (lyricist, librettist and director)
  • Smile (1986) (lyricist,librettist and director)
  • Little Shop of Horrors (film) (1986) (lyricist and screenwriter)
  • Oliver & Company (1988) (lyricist for "Once Upon A Time In New York City")
  • The Little Mermaid (1989) (lyricist, co-producer, writer {additional dialogue})
  • "Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue" (1990) (lyricist for "Wonderful Way To Say No")
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991) (lyricist, executive producer) (dedicatee)
  • Aladdin (1992) (lyricist)


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