Bob Merrill, the Broadway songwriter who enjoyed hits both as a lyricist (Funny Girl) and as a composer/lyricist (Carnival) died Feb. 17 at age 78, an apparent suicide.
Various reports reported him suffering from cancer and from severe gastroenteritis. He reportedly used a gun to shoot himself in the head outside his Beverly Hills, CA, home.
Among many other successes, he wrote lyrics to Barbra Streisand's signature tune "People" (music by Jule Styne) and has been credited as the show-doctor who co-wrote some songs in Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly!.
Merrill also had success as a pop songwriter; his biggest non-Broadway hits included the novelty tune "How Much Is That Doggy in the Window," as recorded by Patti Page and"If I Knew You Were Coming I'd Have Baked a Cake."
His promising early career included two musicals based on Eugene O'Neill plays, the Fosse-Verdon hit New Girl in Town based on Anna Christie, and the Jackie Gleason vehicle Take Me Along, based on Ah, Wilderness!. His Carnival, based on the film Lili, starred Jerry Orbach in his first Broadway show following the success of The Fantasticks. Merrill's career reached its peak with Funny Girl, which made a star of Streisand, and included his memorable lyrics for "Don't Rain on My Parade," "I'm the Greatest Star" and "Cornet Man" in addition to "People," which became a standard.
After that, however, he suffered a series of flops, including Breakfast at Tiffany's (with Mary Tyler Moore), Prettybelle (with Angela Lansbury) and The Prince of Grand Street (with Robert Preston), all of which closed out of town.
His last Broadway hit was the 1972 Sugar with Robert Morse, based on the film Some Like It Hot. Merrill's last New York musical was Hannah . . . 1939, which played 46 performances Off-Broadway in 1990 at the Vineyard Theatre, starring Julie Wilson.
Four Merrill shows were nominated for Tony Awards as Best Musical: New Girl, Take Me Along, Carnival and Funny Girl; none won. Merrill was personally nominated once for a Tony for his Funny Girl lyrics -- but, ironically, lost to Jerry Herman, whom he had helped on the Hello, Dolly! score.
Here is a a list of Bob Merrill's stage shows:
New Girl in Town (music and lyrics) 431 performances, 1957
Take Me Along (music and lyrics) 448 performances, 1959
Carnival (music and lyrics) 719 peformances, 1961
Funny Girl (lyrics), 1348 performances, 1964
Breakfast at Tiffany's (music and lyrics) closed in previews, 1966
Henry, Sweet Henry (music and lyrics) 80 performances, 1967
Prettybelle (book and lyrics) closed out of town, 1971
Sugar (lyrics) 505 peformances, 1972
The Prince of Grand Street (book, music and lyrics), closed out of town, 1978
Hannah. . .1939 (music and lyrics) 46 Off-Broadway performances, 1990