Lionel Bart (born August 1, 1930, died April 3, 1999) was an English composer of songs and musicals, best known for Oliver!
Bart was born Lionel Begleiter in London to Galician Jews, and grew up in Stepney. He later changed his name to Bart after St Bartholomew's Hospital (Bart's). His musical talent was recognized by teachers from a young age, but he was undisciplined, and attempts to teach him the violin were unsuccessful. He never learned to read or write musical notation; this did not stop him from becoming a highly significant personality in the development of British rock and pop music.
He first gained widespread recognition through his song writing, which includes the hits Livin' Doll (written for Cliff Richard) and Rock with the Cavemen (for Tommy Steele). In 1957, he won three Ivor Novello awards, a further four in 1958, and two in 1960.
His first musical was the 1959 Lock Up Your Daughters, based on an 18th century play by Henry Fielding. Following that, Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be, was notable for encouraging the use of authentic Cockney accents on the London stage. Oliver! (1960), based on Dickens' Oliver Twist was a huge hit from the very beginning, and has sustained its popularity to the present day. In 1968 it was made into a film which won several Oscars, including best film.
Bart's next two musicals, Blitz! (1962) and Maggie May (1964), had respectable West End runs (Blitz!, at the time London's most expensive musical ever, had a run of 568 performances ); but Twang! (1965) was a notorious flop and La Strada (1969), which opened in New York, closed after only a few performances. Bart used his personal finances to try to rescue them, selling his rights to others of his works, including Oliver!, in order to generate capital. Unsuccessful, he turned to drink, and a twenty-year period of depression ensued, from which he ultimately recovered. Bart did not return to song writing. Lionel Bart died after a long hard struggle with cancer.
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