The two young men from Britain had collaborated on earlier works before their successful enterprise with Jesus Christ Superstar and each had an impressive career in music. Andrew Lloyd Webber was born in 1948 in London of musician parents, his father a composer and the Director of the London College of Music and his mother a piano teacher. Webber followed in their footsteps from an early age, learning the piano, French horn, and violin. By the time he was six, he was designing toy theatrical productions on the playroom floor, and at age nine he published his first composition, an opera based on Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. At twelve, he met his idol Richard Rodgers after sending him a fan letter. He attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and then the Royal College of Music. After one term at Oxford UniverJ sity, where his intention was to study architecture, he returned to London and met Tim Rice, a lover of classical music who was singing with a contemporary music group, the Aardvarks.
Rice, who was born in Amersham, England, in 1944, had attended the Sorbonne in Paris and had studied law in London, but was now a singer and lyricist, having just published his first song the year he met Webber, 1965. A mutual teacher friend asked them to collaborate on a new musical that his students could produce. The result was an early Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which went on to be produced at Central Hall in Westminster. There a London Sunday Times drama critic praised it, and the pair repackaged the play in 1972 for the London stage, where it earned them a wider audience and still more praise.
The duo’s next musical was Jesus Christ Superstar. Since they could not find a sponsor for a full production, they recorded one song, Judas’s ‘‘Superstar,’’ and released it to local underground radio stations in Great Britain and the United States. It became a hit single, so they recorded the entire, elaborate two-record album at great expense, making it, according to one critic, ‘‘the most expensive demo record ever.’’ The album, too, succeeded wildly (except in Great Britain), so that with a demand waiting for them, they were able to produce the stage rock opera to sold-out crowds and mostly enthusiastic critics. The pair went on to produce more hits together, including Evita (1978). Webber has earned six Tony awards, four Drama Desk awards, three Grammys, and five Laurence Olivier awards, mostly for best score and best musical. In 1992 he was knighted for his service to the arts. He was the first recipient of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers Triple Play award. In 1995, Webber was inducted into the American Songwriters’ Hall of Fame and also given the Praemium Imperiale Award for Music. In 1997 he was elevated to the peerage as The Lord Lloyd-Webber of Sydmonton. Tim Rice has earned Grammy, Tony, and Academy Awards for his lyrics. Rice wrote the lyrics for the Disney feature cartoon The Lion King and worked with Alan Menken to produce the lyrics for Disney’s Aladdin, among others. Rice has published over 30 books on British pop music, and runs his own book publishing company, Pavilion Books, which he established in 1981. He is also the United Kingdom’s chairman for Sports and the Arts. He was knighted in 1994 for his work in the arts and sports.
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