Lyricist John Latouche was born November 13, 1917, in Richmond, VA, later attending the Richmond Academy of Arts and Sciences. While at Columbia University, he made his writing debut with contributions to the 1937 revue Needles and Pins, two years later authoring "Ballad for Uncle Sam" for the WPA production Sing for Your Supper; the song was quickly adapted by composer Earl Robinson and retitled "Ballad for Americans" for use in the radio broadcast Pursuit of Happiness, later resurfacing in the 1942 film Born to Sing. In the interim, Latouche scored his greatest commercial success with the 1940 Broadway premiere of Cabin in the Sky, an all-black musical composed by Vernon Duke and choreographed by George Balanchine; Ethel Waters introduced the production's most famous number, "Taking a Chance on Love." Latouche also worked on 1941's Ice Capades, while the following year's Banjo Eyes yielded his "A Nickel to My Name"; in 1943, Cabin in the Sky was adapted for the screen and he also contributed to the movie musical I Dood It. Latouche continued alternating between the stage (Polonaise, Beggar's Holiday) and the screen (Dreams That Money Can Buy, Remains to Be Seen) in the years to follow. In 1956, he teamed with Richard Wilbur and Dorothy Parker to write lyrics for Lillian Hellman's adaptation of Candide, with music by Leonard Bernstein. He died that August 7 at the age of just 38.
by Jason Ankeny