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(Soundbite of song, "Fiddler on the Roof")

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The man who wrote this iconic passage from "Fiddler on the Roof" has died. Composer Jerry Bock passed away this morning in New York from heart failure following a stroke.

NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this remembrance.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: Nine Tony Awards, three Oscars, "Fiddler on the Roof" has been performed in dozens of languages, thousands of times since it was written by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick in 1964.

(Soundbite of song, "If I Were A Rich Man")

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) (Singing) If I were a rich man, (unintelligible). All day long I'd (unintelligible) if I were a wealthy man.

BLAIR: Jerry Bock was a composer pretty much his whole life. He wrote music for shows as early as high school. Bock made Broadway history when he teamed up with lyricist Sheldon Harnick. Their first show was a flop. But then they wrote "Fiorello," based on the legendary New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified People (Actors): (As characters) (Singing) (Unintelligible).

BLAIR: "Fiorello" won a Pulitzer in 1960. For the often melancholy music for "Fiddler on the Roof," Jerry Bock drew from Klezmer and Jewish prayer music. He told NPR in 2000 that he was deeply moved by Fiddler's astounding popularity.

Mr. JERRY BOCK (Composer): To have been fortunate to see it in various countries, in so many different ways - theaters that were dime-sized; orchestras that were under the stage - and yet, coming through and reaching the people by the performance and by the show, those were things that were unimaginable.

(Soundbite of song, "Tradition")

Unidentified People (Actors): (As characters) (Singing) Tradition, tradition, tradition.

BLAIR: Composer Jerry Bock died this morning. He was 81.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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