Conception, Writer, Lyricist
( b. Jun 01, 1921 Brigdeport, Connecticut, USA - d. Feb 17, 2009 New York, New York, USA ) Male
Eric Blau, who transformed his infatuation with the songs of a Belgian-born troubadour into one of Off Broadway’s most enduring hits, “Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris,” died on Feb. 17 in Manhattan. He was 87.
Mr. Blau had been a poet, a children’s television producer, a ghost writer and an editor of a Communist literary magazine before he and the composer Mort Shuman conceived “Jacques Brel,” an evening’s worth of the singer’s wistful-sardonic, witty-bitter, hopeful-fatalistic pop songs. The two men translated Brel’s lyrics into English and added connective material.
The result, performed by a cast of four (including Mr. Shuman and Mr. Blau’s wife, Elly Stone), was a song cycle that, with a kind of spontaneous alchemy, became more theatrical than musical. Its original production, which opened at the Village Gate in early 1968, ran more than four years before playing a two-month engagement on Broadway. It engendered hundreds, if not thousands of productions in professional and amateur theaters all over the world. It most recently played a year-long run at the Zipper Theatre, ending in February 2007.
Milton Eric Blau was born on June 1, 1921, in Bridgeport, Conn., the son of immigrants from Hungary who lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Mr. Blau attended the City College in New York, but left before he graduated.
Mr. Blau served in the United States Army Signal Corps in World War II, and while he was in Europe he published poems, translated into French, in French journals. Back home, he supported himself as a freelance writer and a public relations man, and he was a founder of Masses and Mainstream, a journal that espoused Communist principles.
Mr. Blau was at one point a ghost writer for instructional pamphlets ostensibly written by sports stars like Roger Maris and Bob Cousy; and with the cartoonist Roy Doty he created “The Adventures of Danny Dee,” an early children’s show that featured rudimentary animation.
After creating “Jacques Brel,” Mr. Blau published several books, including poetry and novels such as "The Beggar's Cup," "The Hero of the Slocum Disaster." He also created and produced a handful of small Off Broadway musicals, but he never came close to matching the success of “Jacques Brel.” That never fazed him, his family said.
Sources: NY Times and Playbill.com obits.
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