Director, Performer, Writer, Lyricist
( b. Mar 02, 1919 Brooklyn, New York, USA - d. Mar 25, 2014 New York, New York, USA ) Male
When Eddie Lawrence first performed his new comedy routine for his agent and a few entertainment executives, they told him that they loved it but that it was too clever for most people to understand. Mr. Lawrence had more faith in his audience. He began the routine in a nasally whimper, a voice he later described as "sort of a crying Jolson."
And so was born "the Old Philosopher," a character and routine that became Mr. Lawrence's bread and butter. Mr. Lawrence structured the routine like a song, alternating tales of his fictional victims' strange troubles with his clichéd refrain to carry on.
Released in 1956 as a three-minute single, "The Old Philosopher" rose into the Top 40 of the Billboard charts. Decades later, it continued to provide Mr. Lawrence (and some imitators) with a flexible framework for comic sketches, commercials and many television appearances. Many people became familiar with the routine, or variations on it, even if they did not know Mr. Lawrence by name. But it brought him new opportunities. He worked as a lyricist, pitchman, actor, writer and director. In the 1930s, he performed in variety shows at the Roxy Theater. In the Army in World War II, he was a disc jockey. Soon after the war, he did impersonations on radio, including on a show with the actor John Marley, and he began recording albums of comedy routines in the 1950s, many of which included versions of "The Old Philosopher."
He became a regular on "The Steve Allen Show" and appeared on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." In the 1980s, he adapted "The Old Philosopher" for commercials for the Claridge Hotel Casino in Atlantic City.
Decades earlier, he appeared off Broadway in The Threepenny Opera and had a prominent role on Broadway as a bookie in Bells Are Ringing.
In 1965, Mr. Lawrence wrote the lyrics for what became something of a pop standard, "I'll Never Go There Anymore." Stephen Sondheim once listed it among songs he wished he had written, but it was also linked to one of Mr. Lawrence's most frustrating experiences, the 1965 musical Kelly. Inspired by the story of Steve Brodie, who supposedly survived jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge in 1886, the show became the biggest flop Broadway had ever seen at the time.
Mr. Lawrence wrote the book and the lyrics, and Moose Charlap composed the music. It was a labor of love for both of them, intended as a nuanced, unconventional story that reflected their serious artistic ambitions. But after producers decided to make substantial changes, Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Charlap sued, trying to stop the production from going forward. The cost ballooned from $450,000 to $650,000, considered exorbitant at the time.
The experience was a lifelong sore point for Mr. Lawrence. He was pleased many years later when a concert version of Kelly, as originally written, was produced by the York Theater Company, with Brian d'Arcy James in the lead role.
Source: The New York Times obituary