Leslie Bricusse wrote some of the most memorable Broadway and movie themes of the second half of the 20th century. Both a composer and a lyricist, the Londoner penned lyrics for the likes of Henry Mancini, John Williams, John Barry, and Andrew Lloyd Webber, but most frequently partnered with songwriter/singer/actor Anthony Newley. Together, they wrote the Tony-nominated musicals Stop the World -- I Want to Get Off (1961) and The Roar of the Greasepaint -- The Smell of the Crowd (1965) as well as the Academy Award-nominated music for Willy Wonka the Chocolate Factory (1971). Sammy Davis, Jr. had a number one hit with Wonka's "The Candy Man." Bricusse and Newley also collaborated on lyrics for the Bond theme "Goldfinger," although Bricusse worked solo on words for the title song to later Bond chapter You Only Live Twice. A nine-time Oscar nominee, he won two, for "Talk to the Animals" from 1967's Doctor Doolittle, which he wrote alone, and for his music with Mancini for 1982's Victor/Victoria. Back on-stage, he earned his fifth and final Tony nomination, for Best Book of a Musical, for Jekyll Hyde, which opened on Broadway in 1997. Still active in the 2000s, he provided the lyrics for "Christmas at Hogwarts" from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) and wrote the book and lyrics for the stage musical Cyrano (2009). His memoir Pure Imagination: A Sorta-Biography was published in 2015.

Bricusse was born January 29, 1931 in Greater London. While attending Cambridge University, he served as president of the school's famed Footlights Revue Club, co-writing, directing, and starring in its first two musical shows, Out of the Blue and Lady at the Wheel. In 1954, he was tapped to appear in An Evening with Beatrice Lillie while concurrently writing the film musical Charley Moon; one song from the picture, "Out of Town," became a U.K. Top 20 hit for star Max Bygraves and earned Bricusse his first Ivor Novello Award. In 1961, he earned a second Novello for "My Kind of Girl," a Top Five smash for Matt Munro. That same year, Bricusse and songwriting partner Anthony Newley traveled to New York to write the musical Stop the World -- I Want to Get Off. Premiering in London that summer, the production was a hit, launching the instant classic "What Kind of Fool Am I?" as well as the favorites "Once in a Lifetime" and "Gonna Build a Mountain." The show's five Tony Award nominations included nods for Best Musical and Best Composer and Lyricist.

Bricusse collaborated with Cyril Ornadel on the follow-up, 1963's Pickwick, which generated the hit "If I Ruled the World." He reunited with Newley a year later for The Roar of the Greasepaint -- The Smell of the Crowd, which yielded the popular favorites "Who Can I Turn To?" and "Feeling Good." (Versions of "Feeling Good" later charted for Nina Simone and Michael Bublé, with some of the numerous samples of Simone's cover appearing in recordings by Jay-Z and Kanye West, Mary J. Blige, and Avicii.) Also in 1964, Bricusse and Newley contributed the lyrics to John Barry's title theme for the James Bond classic Goldfinger, a hit for singer Shirley Bassey. Four years later, Bricusse and Barry again collaborated on the theme for the Bond entry You Only Live Twice. In the interim, he wrote the screenplay and score for the musical fantasy Doctor Doolittle, which starred Newley and Rex Harrison. Though judged a box-office failure, the film did earn its author an Academy Award for his song "Talk to the Animals." Bricusse garnered an Oscar nomination the following year for his score to Goodbye, Mr. Chips, repeating the feat for 1970's Scrooge, which got a second nomination for Bricusse's song "Thank You Very Much." Most successful of all was the 1971 movie hit Willy Wonka the Chocolate Factory, which featured "The Candy Man," a pop chart-topper for Sammy Davis, Jr. the following year. A collaboration with Newley, the soundtrack also furnished the movie classic "Pure Imagination."

Bricusse and Newley returned to the stage for 1974's The Good Old Bad Old Days, which in addition to its title song featured numbers such as "I Do Not Love You" and "It's a Musical World." The pair teamed up again for a 1976 television musical version of Peter Pan starring Mia Farrow as Pan and Danny Kaye as Captain Hook. Bricusse resurfaced in 1978 with contributions to Superman: The Movie ("Can You Read My Mind," with John Williams) and The Revenge of the Pink Panther ("Move 'Em Out," with Henry Mancini) before winning a second Oscar for his score to Blake Edwards' 1982 musical comedy Victor/Victoria, another collaboration with Mancini. His subsequent Oscar nominations included 1986's "Life in a Looking Glass" (from That's Life, with Mancini) and the Williams collaborations "Somewhere in My Memory" (1990's Home Alone) and "When You're Alone" (1991's Hook).

In 1989, Bricusse received the Kennedy Award for excellence in British songwriting, and was only the fourth Brit inducted into the American Songwriters Hall of Fame (behind Noel Coward, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney). Also in 1989, his musical Sherlock Holmes opened in London, albeit to negative reviews. In 1995, his score to Victor/Victoria was adapted for Broadway and, like the original film, starred Julie Andrews. Featuring lyrics by Bricusse, Steve Cuden, and Frank Wildhorn, music by Wildhorn, and a book by Bricusse, the 1990 musical Jekyll Hyde made its Broadway debut in 1997 and collected a Tony nomination for Bricusse for Best Book of a Musical. A stage version of Doctor Dolittle (music, lyrics, and book by Bricusse) opened in London the following year. Williams enlisted Bricusse for lyrics to "Christmas at Hogwarts" from 2001's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Another stage musical, Cyrano (with book and lyrics by Bricusse and music by Wildhorn), opened in Tokyo in 2009 after plans for a West End opening were scrapped. The songwriter's name turned up again in 2013 on "The Perfect Song" from vocalist Michael Ball's album Both Sides Now. Reportedly the result of a luncheon challenge, Bricusse provided the song title to friend Andrew Lloyd Webber, who then wrote the melody on the taxi ride home before passing the song back to Bricusse, who completed the lyrics in a day.

Bricusse published his memoir, Pure Imagination: A Sorta-Biography, in 2015. That year, the revue Pure Imagination: The Musical World of Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse premiered in Venice, California. Bricusse died on October 19, 2021 in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France; he was 90 years old. ~ Jason Ankeny & Marcy Donelson, Rovi

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