Known for his brief but highly successful partnership with Richard Adler, composer/lyricist Jerry Ross was born Jerold Rosenberg in the Bronx on March 9, 1926. He began singing at synagogue at age ten, and when his talent quickly became apparent, he got involved in Yiddish theater, taking professional jobs by the time he was in high school. He also started writing songs as a teenager, and went on to study music at New York University. After college, he honed his chops on the so-called borscht belt resort circuit in the Catskills, where he met pop singer Eddie Fisher. Fisher helped introduce the newly renamed, less ethnic-sounding Jerry Ross around New York's music publishing world, and in 1950, he met fellow composer/lyricist Richard Adler. The two decided to team up and split the music- and lyric-writing duties evenly, as opposed to the usual arrangement of having one partner concentrate exclusively on each. Songwriter Frank Loesser signed the team to his publishing company in 1951, and two years later, their composition "Rags to Riches" became a monster number one smash for Tony Bennett. Several more of their songs were featured in a Broadway revue that same year, and they were hired by director George Abbott to write the musical score for The Pajama Game, a comedy about labor unrest. The Pajama Game opened in 1954 starring John Raitt and Carol Haney, and it was a smash success, particularly on the strength of the songs "Hey There" (recorded for a hit by Rosemary Clooney) and "Hernando's Hideaway." The show ran for over a thousand performances and won its composers a Tony Award; a successful film version also followed, with Doris Day taking the lead female role. Ross and Adler's next collaboration was 1955's Damn Yankees, a baseball-themed retelling of the Faust story line; it too was a Tony Award-winning smash that ran for over a thousand performances, and spawned the popular, oft-covered tunes "Heart" and "Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)." Unfortunately, at the height of the duo's success, tragedy struck: Ross fell victim to a lung disease related to chronic bronchitis, and died unexpectedly on November 11, 1955. Adler continued on a lengthy career as a composer, but never reached quite the same level of Broadway success he enjoyed in tandem with Ross.
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