Fred Ebb, lyricist of Cabaret, dies
September 13 2004 11:00 PM ET
Fred Ebb, who wrote the lyrics to Broadway musical hits including Cabaret and Chicago and also penned the words to the Big Apple anthem, "New York, New York," died on Saturday after a heart attack, his agent said.
Although some reference sources list his age as 71, the funeral home, after consulting with his family, put his age at 76, The New York Times reported.
His collaboration with his longtime partner, composer John Kander, often tackling dark, offbeat material, spanned nearly 40 years and spawned a dozen shows. Kander and Ebb made their Broadway debut in 1965 with Flora, the Red Menace, starring a 19-year-old Liza Minnelli in a show about young Communists in the 1930s.
A year later the duo struck it big with Cabaret, a show about Berlin decadence amid the rise of the Nazis, which won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Adapted from out writer Christopher Isherwood's stories, Cabaret is just one of the Kander and Ebb shows beloved of gay fans. It later won eight Oscars, including one for music, in a 1972 film starring Minnelli and directed by Bob Fosse.
Fosse later directed Kander and Ebb's 1975 Broadway hit Chicago, about homicidal showgirls, which also made a highly successful transition to the screen, with the 2002 film version winning six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
"He and his partner, John Kander, formed an incredibly rich collaboration," said Sam Cohn, Ebb's agent for more than 25 years. "They were the top of the heap," he said, paraphrasing Ebb's lyric in "New York, New York," which was written for the 1977 Martin Scorsese film of the same name that starred Minnelli and Robert De Niro.
The song became a hit through a 1980 recording by Frank Sinatra, and then-New York mayor Edward Koch designated it as the official city song by proclamation in 1985.
Kander and Ebb collaborated on other successful shows including Woman of the Year (1981) and Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993). Their last completed musical, The Visit, based on Friedrich Durrenmatt's play, premiered in Chicago in 2001.