Born Richard Roven Hyman on March 8, 1927, New York, NY. Education: Graduated from Columbia University, 1948. Addresses: Office--Dick Hyman Music, Inc., 617 Menendez St., Venice, FL 34285.

Throughout his long career, Dick Hyman has distinguished himself as a keyboardist, composer, arranger, and conductor, recording more than 100 albums of his own and contributing to many others. He played with the legends Charlie Parker and Benny Goodman, and demonstrated a facility with a broad range of styles from ragtime to be bop. His 1969 release, The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman, was one of the first to use the Moog synthesizer; when sampled by pop wünderkind Beck on his 1996 release Odelay, it introduced a new generation of listeners to his music. As Dick Katz wrote in The Oxford Companion to Jazz, Hyman "has long been respected as one of the most accomplished jazz pianists extant, capable of just about anything possible on the keyboards (piano, organ, and more). He is a kind of renaissance man, and his repertory work in invaluable. He plays all styles from Scott Joplin to Cecil Taylor." In recent years Hyman made his mark as a composer of music for films.

Hyman was born on March 8, 1927, in New York City and raised in the suburb Mount Vernon. He demonstrated musical talent early, and while attending Columbia University won a jazz piano contest, first prize being lessons with jazz great Teddy Wilson. After graduating in 1948, Hyman went on to play with Wilson, Red Norvo, Benny Goodman, and Charlie Parker. He began working as a studio musician for radio and television during the 1950s and the variety of musical styles he was asked to play undoubtedly helped develop his phenomenal versatility and eclectic tastes. He began to work as a solo artist, recording ragtime tunes under the pseudonym "Knuckles O'Toole," and producing a harpsichord rendition of "Mack the Knife" from Threepenny Opera that became a million-seller in 1956. (The tune would later become a hit for both Bobby Darren and Louis Armstrong as well.)

Hyman's recorded output is a virtual survey of early jazz and popular music, with titles such as Dick Hyman Plays the Great American Songbook, Dick Hyman Plays Duke Ellington, and From the Age of Swing. He has recorded the music of Scott Joplin, Fats Waller, Eubie Blake, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, and others. Some of his recordings strayed far outside the realm of jazz to include polka and light classical works; he even set the sonnets of William Shakespeare to music.

Hyman's own compositions include his "Piano Concerto," "Ragtime Fantasy," and "Sonata for Violin and Piano." In his numerous concert appearances, Hyman brings the music of the 1920s and 1930s to modern audiences. He explained this preference to the Salt Lake Tribune's Martin Renzhofer: "Ever since then, jazz has become, for better or worse, an art form. Originally it was dance music, but we don't dance to it anymore. It's just evolution. People don't dance the minuet either anymore."

Hyman became the musical director of the popular Arthur Godfrey Show in 1958, a post he held until 1961. He had a distinguished career in that medium, serving as musical director for Benny Goodman's last television appearance and for In Performance at the White House. He received an Emmy Award for his work on the children's program Sunshine's on the Way in 1980 and was praised for his musical direction of the PBS special on jazz centenarian Eubie Blake. Other work for PBS included Hyman's scores for Tales from the Hollywood Hills and Ask Me Again. In addition, Hyman has also been active on radio, appearing as a guest performer on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion, and Public Radio International's Riverwalk, Live from the Landing series. Hyman orchestrated the hit musical Sugar Babies, and collaborated on several dance projects, composing and performing the score to Piano Man for the Cleveland Ballet, Ivory Strides for Ballet Jazz de Montreal, and Twyla Tharp's Bum's Rush for the American Ballet Theater.

Hyman scored, arranged, and supervised the music for numerous films, projects in which his vast musical knowledge and fluency in many styles served him well. He arranged 1977's Scott Joplin, and composed the score for1989's Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser. His association with music buff Woody Allen began in 1980, when Hyman composed and performed the piano music for Stardust Memories. Hyman supervised the music on Allen's 1984 Broadway Danny Rose and 1987's Radio Days. He arranged and conducted the music for 1994's Bullets Over Broadway and 1999's Sweet and Lowdown. He wrote the soundtrack for 1985's Purple Rose of Cairo, 1995's Mighty Aphrodite, and 1996's Everyone Says I Love You. Other notable film scores include the 1976 television movie Bernice Bobs Her Hair, and 1987's Moonstruck. "I always aspired to write for films, Hyman told Renzhofer. "Use of music can craft interest and often tell you how to react to a scene." In 2001, Hyman tried his hand in front of the lens, portraying a bandleader in Allen's Curse of the Jade Scorpion.

In 1985 Hyman began his stint as artistic director of the Jazz in July concert series at New York City's 92nd Street Y. He has also served as Jazz advisor of the Oregon Festival of American Music, and was inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame of Rutger's Institute of Jazz Studies and the New Jersey Jazz Society in 1995. He received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Wilkes University in 1996.

In recent years, Hyman has been recognized for his part in the burgeoning electronica movement for his early recordings on the Moog synthesizer, such as 1969's The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman. Recorded in the era of moonshots and Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Eclectics exploits the unique sounds of the synth creating a classic of "space age music." Some of the pop records Hyman made in the 1960s have recently been reproduced. "They are reissues for a new generation," Hyman told Renzhofer. "They're not jazz, but are being called lounge albums. And they're being purchased by people who weren't even born then. I'm astonished by it."

by Kevin O'Sullivan

Dick Hyman's Career

Began professional career after graduation from Columbia University, 1948; played with Charlie Parker, Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Red Norvo, and others, late 1940s; began working as studio musician, early 1950s; recorded ragtime, swing, novelty albums; had first hit with harpsichord version of "Mack the Knife," 1956; music director for the Arthur Godfrey Show, 1958-61; experimented with pop and electronic music, released the Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman, 1969; composed and arranged music for television, 1960-70s; began creative association with Woody Allen, contributing piano music to Stardust Memories, 1980; artistic director of Jazz in July series, New York City 92nd Street Y, 1985; benefited from renewed interest in "lounge" and electronica music, late 1990s.

Dick Hyman's Awards

Emmy Award, Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children's Programming-Composition and Music Direction for Sunshine's on the Way, 1980; induction, Rutger's Institute of Jazz Studies Hall of Fame, New Jersey Jazz Society, 1995.

Famous Works

Further Reading



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