Stephen Lawrence, who offered a soundtrack of kinds for a great number of childhoods as the songs director for the landmark “Free to Be … You and Me” album and television exclusive and as a longtime composer for “Sesame Avenue,” died on Dec. 30 at a clinical center in Belleville, N.J. He was 82.
His wife, Cathy (Merritt) Lawrence, claimed the cause was multiple organ failure.
Mr. Lawrence had a gift for catchy tunes and track constructions that would appeal to young minds.
“One of the most helpful gadgets, and for youngsters one of the most critical, is repetition,” he wrote in “How to Compose Tunes for Children,” an essay on his website. “Did you generate a initially line you like? Why not repeat it?”
The essay went on to exhibit how composers from Beethoven to John Lennon had carried out just that, and Mr. Lawrence used the gadget generally on “Sesame Street” classics like “Fuzzy and Blue (and Orange),” a jaunty 1981 quantity with lyrics by David Axelrod.
A person of Mr. Lawrence’s most captivating tunes was also one of his very first for the children’s market: the title track of “Free to Be … You and Me,” the star-studded 1972 album and e-book conceived by Marlo Thomas. The history, full of tracks and stories celebrating tolerance and busting gender stereotypes, grew to become an enduring hit and was lately selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress’s Nationwide Recording Registry of culturally substantial functions.
Mr. Lawrence, functioning with the lyricist Bruce Hart, was provided the endeavor of coming up with the opening quantity. A unforgettable folk melody recorded by the New Seekers, it commences with a banjo, an instrument not normally read in the pop and rock tunes of that time.
“Banjo was fantastic for the introduction of this song,” Mr. Lawrence mentioned on the radio software “Soundcheck” in an interview marking the 40th anniversary of the album. “It is type of timeless. It says joy. It says non-sophistication — despite the fact that some of the album is pretty refined. It suggests: ‘Listen up. This is an strange instrument you never hear every single day. It’s likely to set up a music you’re heading to like.’”
Ms. Thomas had recruited a formidable roster of stars to perform on the record. In addition to writing the new music for several of the tracks, Mr. Lawrence, as the project’s new music director, had the endeavor of overseeing recording periods. That meant doing work with a quirky array of performers, some of them skilled singers and some of them, like Mel Brooks and the football player Rosey Grier, not.
Mr. Lawrence was a relative unidentified at the time. Recording Diana Ross singing “When We Expand Up” (another “Free to Be” song for which he wrote the audio) at Motown’s studios in Los Angeles furnished him with a pinch-myself moment.
“I arrived at Motown Studios and assumed about the lots of well-known recording artists who experienced recorded there, none extra famed than Diana Ross,” he wrote on his blog site. “I realized that the entire ‘Free to Be’ challenge was lifting my career to new heights.”
The album was a runaway finest vendor, and Mr. Lawrence went on to compose a lot more than 300 music for “Sesame Road.” Beginning in 1989, he was nominated consistently, along with the show’s other composers and lyricists, for Daytime Emmy Awards for audio path and composition. He received 3 instances.
Mr. Lawrence didn’t get the job done only on children’s materials. He composed the audio for the 1973 baseball drama “Bang the Drum Gradually,” the 1976 horror motion picture “Alice, Sweet Alice” and other films, and collaborated on several phase musicals.
Ms. Thomas, while, stated he was the fantastic selection to access youthful audiences.
“‘Free to Be … You and Me’ was 1st and generally a children’s undertaking,” she stated by email, “so it expected a composer and musical director who could develop tunes that sparked the imaginations and touched the hearts of women and boys in all places. Stephen was that individual. I beloved him and I loved doing the job with him.”
Stephen James Lawrence was born on Sept. 5, 1939, in Manhattan. His father, Allan, was head of a production organization, and his mom, Helen (Kupfer) Lawrence, was a homemaker.
He grew up in Wonderful Neck, on Long Island. He began using piano lessons 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.
Whilst majoring in audio at Hofstra University (now Hofstra College), where by he graduated in 1961, he composed songs for pupil reveals and other entertainments. 1 was a musical, “The Delicate Contact” the guide and lyrics ended up by a fellow college student, Francis Ford Coppola.
Mr. Lawrence arrived to the “Free to Be” project via Mr. Hart, with whom he experienced penned some tunes and whose spouse, Carole Hart, was making the project with Ms. Thomas. The two ladies questioned Mr. Hart and Mr. Lawrence to arrive up with a song 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 developed that concept into a comprehensive tune lyric, which he offered to Mr. Lawrence.
“As from time to time transpires,” Mr. Lawrence recalled in his blog, “I obtained an notion suitable away and concluded the song in a single working day.”
The label, Bell Data, informed the team to count on to offer about 15,000 copies. Alternatively income soared earlier the million mark. A 1974 television version, with Mr. Lawrence as new music director, additional to the phenomenon.
The Harts (he died in 2006, she in 2018) and Mr. Lawrence labored collectively on other tasks, such as the 1979 tv film “Sooner or Afterwards,” which yielded the Rex Smith hit “You Acquire My Breath Absent,” penned by Mr. Hart and Mr. Lawrence.
Mr. Lawrence started creating for “Sesame Street” in the early 1980s and continued to do so for decades. The position gave him a opportunity to indulge in a wide assortment of musical types. A single of his earliest compositions for the demonstrate was “Kermit’s Minstrel Song” (1981, lyrics by Mr. Axelrod), which referred to as to mind Renaissance-period tunes. Ms. Lawrence mentioned one of her favorites was “Gina’s Dream” (lyrics by Jon Stone), in which Mr. Lawrence did a really great task 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 very first relationship, Hannah Jones Anderson Ms. Lawrence’s sons, Sam and Nicholas Kline and a grandson.