James Radeau, who rocked Broadway in the Age of Aquarius as co-author of “Poetry,” the show, described as “American tribal rock and love,” which changed musical theater traditions while shattering the radical icons of the ’60s and rock-roll, died Tuesday night in Manhattan. He was 90 years old.
Publicist Merle Freemark, an old friend, said the cause of his death in hospital was cardiac and respiratory arrest.
A great deal of Poetry’s power lies in its raw, primal spontaneity, yet Mr. Radu worked on it for years with his assistant Jerome Ragne to perfect this effect. Contrary to theatrical beliefs, he and Mr. Ragni were not actors outside of work and wrote “Hair” to generate roles they could play themselves, but New York offers regular shows with increasing biographies.
They met as members of an off-Broadway theater called “Hang Down Your Head and Die”, a London transfer that closed after one show in October 1964. Mr. Rado linked up with Mr. Ragni and soon spoke to him about collaborations in the musical that would capture the exuberant and counter-cultural youth culture of the establishment that has popped up all around them on the streets of lower Manhattan – a musical about hippies before hippies even had a name.
Mr. Radu, a musician before he became an actor, began writing songs with Mr. Rajni, which they would sometimes sing in the then cafes of Greenwich Village.
Moving into an apartment in Hoboken, NJ, where rents were cheaper than in downtown Manhattan, they borrowed a typewriter from the owner and went to work seriously writing their music, transcribing to the song of sexual liberation, racial integration, drug experiments and opposition to the escalating Vietnam War that was Their young models spur on the streets. (They later recruit Galt MacDermot to write new tunes for their lyrics.) In solidarity with Mr. Rado and Mr. Ragni they started letting their short hair grow long.
A full obituary will be posted soon.
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