b. 5 October 1925, Kroonstad, South Africa. A distinguished journalist and lyricist, Kretzmer left his home country in the late 40s, and drifted for a few years. He lived in Paris for a time, playing the piano in a bar on the Left Bank, before settling in London in 1954. Pursuing twin careers, he served as drama critic for the Daily Express and television critic for the Daily Mail, as well as collaborating with Dave Lee on two novelty hits for Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren, ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ and ‘Bangers And Mash’. The former went to number 4 in the UK chart, and won an Ivor Novello Award. Kretzmer and Lee were commissioned to write a topical song each week for BBC television’s satirical That Was The Week That Was, and their ‘In The Summer Of His Years’, which was performed by Millicent Martin within hours of the assassination of President Kennedy, was swiftly covered in America by Mahalia Jackson, Kate Smith, and Connie Francis. Kretzmer then wrote the book and lyrics for the West End musical Our Man Crichton (1964), and contributed lyrics only to The Four Musketeer s (1967) and Anthony Newley’s cult musical film Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe And Find True Happiness? From the latter, ‘When You Gotta Go’ has become a closing song for many cabaret singers, while ‘On The Boards’, performed in the film by Bruce Forsyth, is a skilfully-worded tribute to music hall. Kretzmer’s English lyrics for the Charles Aznavour songs, ‘Yesterday When I Was Young’, ‘Happy Anniversary’ and ‘She’ (from the ITV series The Seven Faces Of Woman), were brought to the attention of Cameron Mackintosh, who invited Kretzmer to write the lyrics for the London production of the French musical Les Misérables. This was done by adapting into English the original text by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, and involved expanding the two-hour piece into a three-hour show. The all-sung musical has been a West End success since 1985, and includes the witty and ingenious rhymes of ‘Master Of The House’ as well as the familiar ballads, ‘I Dreamed A Dream’, ‘On My Own’ and ‘Bring Him Home’. In 1988 Kretzmer was made a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Government. His lyrics have been translated into several languages to enable Les Misérables to be performed with enormous success throughout the world.
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