Legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim dead at 91

Sondheim died as Steven Spielberg movie remake of his famed musical "West Side Story" neared release date.

Updated: November 26, 2021 - 6:28pm

Stephen Sondheim, one of Broadway's greatest composers, whose hits over a half century ranged from the catchy "West Side Story" to the edgy "Assassins," died Friday at the age of 91.

Sondheim passed away suddenly at his home in Roxbury, Conn., just one day after celebrating Thanksgiving with friends, his longtime lawyer F. Richard Pappas told The New York Times,

Born and raised in Manhattan during the Great Depression, Sondheim exhibited an uncanny command of lyric and note and quickly took Broadway by storm in the 1960s with such musicals as "Gypsy" and "West Side Story."

His decades of excellence and eclectic variety earned him countless Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, a lifetime achievement award from the Kennedy Center and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2015. Such accomplishments placed him in the rarified company of composing greats like Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Jerry Herman.

In his 2010 memoir, Sondheim described the philosophy he brought to the opening of each song he wrote. "The most unimportant word in the opening line is the one that gets the most important note," he wrote.

His death came as three of his musicals were headed for revival, "West Side Story" on the big screen and "Assassins" and "Company" on the Broadway stage.