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Cy Coleman

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He was born Seymour Kaufman on June 14, 1929, in New York City to Eastern European Jewish parents, and was raised in the Bronx. His mother, Ida (née Prizent) was an apartment landlady and his father was a brickmason. He was a child prodigy who gave piano recitals at Steinway Hall, Town Hall, and Carnegie Hall between the ages of six and nine. Before beginning his fabled Broadway career, he led the Cy Coleman Trio, which made many recordings and was a much-in-demand club attraction.

Despite the early classical and jazz success, he decided to build a career in popular music. His first collaborator was Joseph Allen McCarthy (together they wrote a song called The Riviera), but his most successful early partnership, albeit a turbulent one, was with Carolyn Leigh. The pair wrote many pop hits, including Witchcraft and The Best Is Yet To Come.

One of his instrumentals, “Playboy’s Theme,” became the signature music of the regular TV shows and specials presented by Playboy, and remains synonymous with the magazine and its creator, Hugh Hefner.

Coleman’s winning streak as a Broadway composer began when the team collaborated on Wildcat (1960), which marked the Broadway debut of comedienne Lucille Ball. The score included the hit tune “Hey Look Me Over”. When Ball was unable to cope with the rigors of eight performances a week, she left the cast, and the show soon folded. Up next for the two was Little Me, with a book by Neil Simon based on the novel by Patrick Dennis (Auntie Mame). The show introduced Real Live Girl and I’ve Got Your Number, which became popular standards.

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