Brimming with memorable songs, “Damn Yankees” and “The Pajama Game” were Broadway powerhouses in the 1950s, became Hollywood films and have been in theatrical revival ever since. They catapulted Mr. Adler and his collaborator, composer and lyricist Jerry Ross, to the front rank of theatrical songwriters for several years.
Between them, “Damn Yankees” and “The Pajama Game” provided hit parade standards for a bevy of pop singers: Rosemary Clooney (“Hey There”), Patti Page (“Steam Heat”), Eddie Fisher (“Heart”), Sarah Vaughan (“Whatever Lola Wants”) and Archie Bleyer (“Hernando’s Hideaway”). Singers as varied as the Shirelles and Burl Ives have interpreted the duo’s work.
The voluble Mr. Adler described his flourishing partnership with Ross for the New York Times in 1955. “We’ve got rules,” he said. “If I come in with what I think is a beautiful idea and he says, ‘I don’t like it,’ I can scream, I can rave, but it’s out.”
The songs ranged from the colloquially lyrical “Hey There” (“Hey there, you with the stars in your eyes . . .”) to the novelty madcap “Hernando’s Hideaway.” The latter, Mr. Adler told the Associated Press, was dashed off after George Abbott, director of “The Pajama Game,” was explicit about his need for a zippy tune to round out the second act.
“He said, ‘Write a song that can be performed in a dimly lit, smoke-filled nightclub with a lot of fervent-looking people. Oh, and make it Latin,’ ” Mr. Adler said. “It was a piece of cake for me.”
The result was a tango-tinged number with an unmistakable whiff of a tryst in the making: “I know a dark secluded place/A place where no one knows your face/A glass of wine, a fast embrace/It’s called Hernando’s Hideaway . . . Ole!”
Mr. Adler and Ross achieved an unexpected songwriting credit in 2000 when the rhythm-and-blues singer Debelah Morgan heavily sampled “Hernando’s Hideaway” on her club standard “Dance With Me.”
Proteges of composer and lyricist Frank Loesser, Mr. Adler and Ross first emerged as a bankable songwriting team in 1953 with top hits for Fisher (the ballad “Even Now”) and Tony Bennett (“Rags to Riches”).
Mr. Adler and Ross were the principal songwriters of the 1953 revue “John Murray Anderson’s Almanac,” which became a Broadway success with Harry Belafonte in the cast.
Their reputation was cemented with “The Pajama Game” (1954), a romance set amid labor-management tensions at a pajama factory, and “Damn Yankees” (1955), a baseball-meets-Faust story. Both shows swept the Tony Awards, including honors for best musical, and played for two years on Broadway.
“The Pajama Game,” adapted by Abbott and Richard Bissell from Bissell’s novel “71
2 Cents,” was distinguished by its modern dance choreography by Bob Fosse and its stars John Raitt and Carol Haney. Besides “Hernando’s Hideaway,” “The Pajama Game” helped popularize such songs as “Hey There” and “Steam Heat.”