"Frank Loesser" by Thomas L. Riis

Frank Loesser Thomas L. Riis

Yale Broadway Masters Series
Publication date:
07 Jul 2015
Yale University Press
352 pages: 235 x 156 x 27mm
25 b-w illus. + 52 music examples
Sales territories:

Perhaps best remembered as the writer and composer of the ever-popular Guys and Dolls and the Pulitzer Prize–winning How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Frank Loesser was one of the great songwriters of the twentieth century. Lyricist of over 700 songs—among them such cherished favorites as “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “Once in Love with Amy,” and “I Believe in You”—his work has received both Tony and Academy Awards. Here Thomas L. Riis, in a deeply informed and lively discussion of Loesser’s life and musical career, presents a critical look at one of the most important—though often overshadowed—Broadway composers.


Immensely prolific and a personally magnetic man, Loesser was a major figure during the Broadway golden age that included Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, and Bernstein. Riis traces Loesser’s early career as a Hollywood songwriter and a noted contributor to the war effort. He discusses in depth each of Loesser’s musicals and provides a look at the legacy of a man admired as a mentor who inspired dozens of assistants, protégés, young songwriters, novice singer-actors, and aspiring producers. This book offers a concise look at Loesser’s life along with an engaging examination of the totality of his works. 



Thomas L. Riis is the Joseph Negler Professor of Music and director of the American Music Research Center, University of Colorado at Boulder. He is a specialist in musical theater, and he lectures and writes frequently on many topics in nineteenth- and twentieth-century African American music.

Selected as a 2008 AAUP University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.

"Frank Loesser was that rare bird: a skillful stage composer and brilliant writer of song lyrics. Riis's deeply researched and musically astute study shows us what makes a great show such as Guys and Dolls tick."—Ralph P. Locke, Professor of Musicology, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester

"This superb, imaginative songwriter has finally received the biography he deserves."—Gerald Bordman, author of American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle