Lionel Bart

From Wind Repertory Project
Lionel Bart


Lionel Bart (1 August 1930, Stepney, London, England – 3 April 1999, Hammersmith, London, England) was a writer and composer of British pop music and musicals, best known for creating the book, music and lyrics for Oliver!

He was born Lionel Begleiter, the youngest of seven surviving children of Galician Jews, Yetta (née Darumstundler) and Morris Begleiter, a master tailor. He grew up in Stepney; his father worked in the area as a tailor in a garden shed.

Lionel Begleiter changed his surname to Bart, said to be derived from when he passed by St. Bartholomew's Hospital on the top deck of a bus, after he had completed his National Service with the Royal Air Force.

As a young man he was an accomplished painter. When Bart was aged six, a teacher told his parents that he was a musical genius. His parents gave him an old violin, but he did not apply himself and the lessons stopped. At the age of 14 he obtained a Junior Art Scholarship to Saint Martin's School of Art. He never learned to read or write musical notation; this did not stop him from becoming a significant personality in the development of British rock and pop music.

He started his songwriting career in amateur theatre, first at The International Youth Centre in 1952 where he and a friend wrote a revue together called IYC Revue 52. Bart's first professional musical was 1959's Lock Up Your Daughters, based on the 18th-century play Rape Upon Rape by Henry Fielding.

Oliver! (1960), based on Dickens's Oliver Twist, was a huge hit from the beginning and became the first modern British musical to be transferred successfully to Broadway.

Bart's next two musicals, Blitz! (1962) and Maggie May (1964) had respectable West End runs, but Twang! (1965), a musical based on the Robin Hood legend, was a flop and La Strada (1969), which opened on Broadway in New York City, closed after only one performance. By this time Bart was taking LSD and other drugs and was drinking heavily, and this may have affected both his work and his business judgment.

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