Adler, the son of a concert pianist, was mostly a self-taught musician. After serving in the U.S. Navy he started writing songs, and in 1950 he began collaborating with Jerry Ross. Their first success together was Rags to Riches and their first musical, The Pajama Game, brought them recognition for the way the songs worked with the plot and for their integration of American speech idioms. The pair also wrote Damn Yankees, a musical comedy version of the Faust story. Adler was less successful after Ross' death, but continued to write for commercials and television musicals as well as serving as an arts consultant to the White House from 1965-1969. He also produced several Broadway shows. Richard Adler died at his home in Southampton, New York in June 2012 at the age of 90.