Lucy Simon, the composer and sister of pop superstar Carly Simon who received a Tony nomination in 1991 for her work on the long-running Broadway musical The Secret Garden, has passed away. She was 82.
Simon died Thursday at her home in Piedmont, New York, after a long battle with breast cancer, a family spokesperson said.
She and Carly began their careers in Provincetown, Massachusetts, as The Simon Sisters, and their folk act opened for the likes of The Tarriers in Greenwich Village nightclubs. Their recording of “Wynken, Blynken & Nod” reached number 73 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964.
Lucy Simon became the rare female composer to have a Broadway show when… The Secret Garden debuted in April 1991. Starring Rebecca Luker, Mandy Patinkin, Alison Fraser and Daisy Eagan and based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved children’s novel, the musical has been performed 709 times on Broadway, won two Tonys and has been staged around the world. .
Her next musical, Doctor Zhivagodebuted in Australia after nearly 20 years of pregnancy, landing on Broadway in March 2015. She said her inspiration for that came from the poems Boris Pasternak wrote as Zhivago at the end of his 1957 epic novel.
“Those poems were my way into the music, my inspiration to tell the story in song,” she said.
Simon was born in New York on May 5, 1940. Her father was publishing giant Richard Simon and her mother, Andrea, was a one-time operator at Simon & Schuster.
She was the second oldest of four children: she followed Joanna and preceded Carly and Peter. They all grew up in a musical household where her parents entertained celebrities like James Thurber, Richard Rodgers, Benny Goodman, and Oscar Hammerstein.
A school assignment to memorize and recite a poem led Simon, then 14 and dyslexic, to write music for the Eugene Field poem “Wynken, Blynken & Nod”. It was the only way she could remember.
While Carly would go on to achieve huge success with hits such as “Anticipation,” “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain,” and “You’re So Vain,” Lucy attended nursing school and married psychiatrist David Levine in 1967. However, she returned to record two solo albums for RCA, 1975’s Lucy Simon and 1977’s Stolen time (Carly and James Taylor provided backing vocals on the latter).
She and her husband then produced a pair of Grammy-winning children’s albums, 1981’s In harmony and 1983’s In Harmony 2.
Simon acquired the rights to run the classic children’s book Little house on the Prairie in a musical and worked on it with lyricist Susan Birkenhead, but the project never went through.
Playwright Marsha Norman, who wrote the book and lyrics for The Secret Gardenand producer Heidi Landesman hired Simon as their composer after hearing a demo tune she had written for “I Heard Someone Crying.”
The Center Theater Group in Los Angeles Presents a New Production of The Secret Gardendirected by Warren Carlyle, at the Ahmanson Theater from February 19 to March 26. A concert version of Doctor Zhivago starring Ramin Karimloo is scheduled for May 9 at The Palladium in London.
Simon also wrote and produced the songs and soundtrack for the 1993 HBO television movie The Real True Adventures of the Alleged Killing Mother in Texas Cheerleaderstarring Holly Hunter.
In 2018, she received the Samuel French Award for Sustained Excellence in American Theater.
Simon collaborated with Birkenhead and Emily Mann on the musical On Cedar Streetbased on the book from 2015 Our souls at night and directed by Victoria Clark. Her battle with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer forced her to drop out of the project, but some of her music will live on.
In addition to her sister and husband, there are her children, Julie (and her former husband, Christopher) and James (and his wife, Alanna), and grandchildren Sophie, Ben, Charlie and Evie.
“I believe that life and art will continue into the future,” she once said. “The melody always brings me home. It leads me where I want to go. It is my religion, as if the old gods were speaking to me.”