'Hello, Dolly!' and 'Mame' composer Jerry Herman dies at 88
Jerry Herman AFP

Jerry Herman, the award-winning composer and lyricist behind such upbeat, crowd-pleasing musicals as "Mame" and "Hello, Dolly!" has died in Miami at the age of 88.

His goddaughter Jane Dorian confirmed his Thursday death, The New York Times reported. No cause was given.

"We lost one of the greats; a collaborator and friend for almost 40 years," tweeted actor Harvey Fierstein, who wrote the book for Herman's over-the-top "La Cage aux Folles," the first musical to feature gay lovers.

"La Cage" and "Hello, Dolly!" both won the Tony award for best musical.

While some called his work schmaltzy, it was undeniably popular: each of those two musicals, along with "Mame," ran on Broadway for more than 1,500 consecutive performances.

Herman summed up his winning formula by saying he always tried to write a "simple, hummable show tune."

Defying an industry trend toward darker themes, he crafted positive and life-affirming messages, with songs like "The Best of Times" and "Tap Your Troubles Away."

In all, he scored a dozen Broadway musicals over a half-century.

"Hello, Dolly" was his most striking success. The original show, starring Carol Channing, won 10 of the 11 Tonys for which it was nominated.

Bette Midler starred in a 2017 revival, produced by Herman, that won the Tony award for best revival of a musical.

In 1964, Louis Armstrong's rendition of the title tune knocked the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love" from the top of the charts.

Herman, who was born in Manhattan, attended his first Broadway musical at age 15 with his parents -- a showing of Irving Berlin's "Annie Get Your Gun," with toe-tapping tunes like "There's No Business Like Show Business."

When he got home, Herman sat down at the piano -- having taught himself to play at a summer camp in New York's Catskill region -- and was able to sound out parts to six songs he had never heard before, he later told the Times.

"I was truly inspired by Irving Berlin, by his simplicity, and by the fact that he was able to write in a vernacular that the entire country could grasp immediately," he said.

Herman is survived by his longtime partner, Terry Marler.