Stephen Lawrence, who offered a soundtrack of kinds for a great number of childhoods as the tunes director for the landmark “Free to Be … You and Me” album and television exclusive and as a longtime composer for “Sesame Street,” died on Dec. 30 at a healthcare center in Belleville, N.J. He was 82.
His wife, Cathy (Merritt) Lawrence, reported the trigger was a number of organ failure.
Mr. Lawrence experienced a gift for catchy tunes and tune constructions that would attraction to young minds.
“One of the most successful products, and for young children a person of the most important, is repetition,” he wrote in “How to Compose New music for Small children,” an essay on his blog site. “Did you generate a very first line you like? Why not repeat it?”
The essay went on to show how composers from Beethoven to John Lennon experienced finished just that, and Mr. Lawrence utilized the system usually on “Sesame Street” classics like “Fuzzy and Blue (and Orange),” a jaunty 1981 number with lyrics by David Axelrod.
One particular of Mr. Lawrence’s most fascinating tunes was also a single of his to start with for the children’s current market: the title observe of “Free to Be … You and Me,” the star-studded 1972 album and e book conceived by Marlo Thomas. The history, full of music and tales celebrating tolerance and busting gender stereotypes, grew to become an enduring hit and was a short while ago chosen for inclusion in the Library of Congress’s Nationwide Recording Registry of culturally considerable functions.
Mr. Lawrence, working with the lyricist Bruce Hart, was provided the job of coming up with the opening variety. A unforgettable folks melody recorded by the New Seekers, it begins with a banjo, an instrument not frequently listened to in the pop and rock audio of that time.
“Banjo was excellent for the introduction of this tune,” Mr. Lawrence mentioned on the radio application “Soundcheck” in an interview marking the 40th anniversary of the album. “It is form of timeless. It suggests pleasure. It claims non-sophistication — while some of the album is quite sophisticated. It suggests: ‘Listen up. This is an uncommon instrument you really don’t hear each and every working day. It is likely to set up a track you are heading to like.’”
Ms. Thomas had recruited a formidable roster of stars to execute on the record. In addition to composing the new music for several of the tracks, Mr. Lawrence, as the project’s songs director, had the job of overseeing recording periods. That meant doing the job with a quirky array of performers, some of them professional singers and some of them, like Mel Brooks and the football participant Rosey Grier, not.
Mr. Lawrence was a relative unidentified at the time. Recording Diana Ross singing “When We Develop Up” (another “Free to Be” track for which he wrote the tunes) at Motown’s studios in Los Angeles supplied him with a pinch-myself second.
“I arrived at Motown Studios and imagined about the numerous renowned recording artists who experienced recorded there, none a lot more well-known than Diana Ross,” he wrote on his site. “I realized that the whole ‘Free to Be’ task was lifting my profession to new heights.”
The album was a runaway best vendor, and Mr. Lawrence went on to compose extra than 300 songs for “Sesame Road.” Commencing in 1989, he was nominated frequently, along with the show’s other composers and lyricists, for Daytime Emmy Awards for tunes way and composition. He won 3 occasions.
Mr. Lawrence did not function only on children’s content. He composed the songs for the 1973 baseball drama “Bang the Drum Slowly and gradually,” the 1976 horror motion picture “Alice, Sweet Alice” and other films, and collaborated on numerous phase musicals.
Ms. Thomas, however, claimed he was the fantastic choice to get to young audiences.
“‘Free to Be … You and Me’ was initially and normally a children’s project,” she stated by electronic mail, “so it needed a composer and musical director who could produce tracks that sparked the imaginations and touched the hearts of ladies and boys in all places. Stephen was that particular person. I loved him and I beloved operating with him.”
Stephen James Lawrence was born on Sept. 5, 1939, in Manhattan. His father, Allan, was head of a manufacturing enterprise, and his mom, Helen (Kupfer) Lawrence, was a homemaker.
He grew up in Wonderful Neck, on Prolonged Island. He began getting piano classes at 5, and at 17 he gained a New York radio station’s jazz piano contest the prize was lessons with the pianist Mary Lou Williams.
Even though majoring in audio at Hofstra College or university (now Hofstra University), where by he graduated in 1961, he composed music for student displays and other entertainments. A person was a musical, “The Sensitive Contact” the reserve and lyrics were by a fellow pupil, Francis Ford Coppola.
Mr. Lawrence arrived to the “Free to Be” task through Mr. Hart, with whom he experienced written some songs and whose spouse, Carole Hart, was generating the undertaking with Ms. Thomas. The two women requested Mr. Hart and Mr. Lawrence to arrive up with a music that would introduce the album and convey what it was about. It was Mr. Hart who arrived up with the phrase “Free to be you and me” and constructed that concept into a whole tune lyric, which he introduced to Mr. Lawrence.
“As at times happens,” Mr. Lawrence recalled in his website, “I obtained an notion appropriate away and completed the music in a single working day.”
The label, Bell Records, informed the team to count on to provide about 15,000 copies. Rather sales soared past the million mark. A 1974 television version, with Mr. Lawrence as tunes director, additional to the phenomenon.
The Harts (he died in 2006, she in 2018) and Mr. Lawrence worked alongside one another on other tasks, like the 1979 tv film “Sooner or Later on,” which yielded the Rex Smith strike “You Take My Breath Away,” created by Mr. Hart and Mr. Lawrence.
Mr. Lawrence started producing for “Sesame Street” in the early 1980s and continued to do so for many years. The task gave him a likelihood to indulge in a huge assortment of musical types. Just one of his earliest compositions for the demonstrate was “Kermit’s Minstrel Song” (1981, lyrics by Mr. Axelrod), which identified as to thoughts Renaissance-era tunes. Ms. Lawrence said 1 of her favorites was “Gina’s Dream” (lyrics by Jon Stone), in which Mr. Lawrence did a really superior career of imitating Puccini.
Mr. Lawrence lived in Bloomfield, N.J. His marriage to Christine Jones finished in divorce in 2000. In addition to his spouse, he is survived by a daughter from his 1st relationship, Hannah Jones Anderson Ms. Lawrence’s sons, Sam and Nicholas Kline and a grandson.