Fred Ebb, the Broadway songwriter who wrote such hits as "New York, New York," "Cabaret" and "All That Jazz," died in New York City on Saturday, September 11 of a heart attack. He was the lyricist half of the songwriting team, Kander and Ebb, whose 40-year career produced standards that have been performed by many of the country's biggest talents.
In 2003, the team enjoyed some of the same dizzying success of their earlier years when the movie version of their 1976 musical, Chicago, won the Academy Award for Best Picture. But John Kander and Fred Ebb started out not-so-famously as writers of "special material," as Fred Ebb recalled in this 1978 recording, An Evening With John Kander and Fred Ebb.
"And that's when somebody has a club act and they want you to write a special piece for them that only they can sing," he said. "And they get exclusive performing rights to it for the rest of their lives. And they give you 'three dollars' and that's the end of the transaction."
Perhaps the most famous talent to work with the songwriters' special material was Liza Minnelli, whose career was built on their songs, beginning in 1965 with Flora the Red Menace, and including Liza With a Z and her biggest success, Cabaret, in 1972. In 1981, Kander and Ebb's hit show, Woman of the Year made a musical comedy star of film actress Lauren Bacall; and they enjoyed subsequent successes in Kiss of the Spider Woman, Zorba and The Rink.
Fred Ebb was nominated for 11 Tony Awards in his career. In 2003, both men were named "Living Landmarks" by the Landmark Conservancy.
In recent years however, Kander and Ebb's new musicals met with lackluster reviews and closed during out of town try-outs, including Over and Over, based on Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth and a musical called, The Visit, which played in Chicago in 2001.
At the time of Fred Ebb's death, the songwriting duo was working on several projects, including a murder mystery called Curtains.
Funeral services for Fred Ebb will be held Tuesday at an undisclosed location. He was 76 years old.