Lionel Bart (Lionel Begleiter)
BiographyStepney, London, England, UK
The son of a Jewish Tailor in London's working class East End young Lionel had no formal musical education and never learned musical notation but his music teacher at school declared him to be a genius. He gained a scholarship to St Martin's School of Art at age 16 and started work as a set painter in the theatre. When he saw a notice asking for song writers it was to change his life. His new name was inspired on a bus journey past St. Bartholomew's Hospital (affectionately known as Barts). He wrote his first musical in 1958, Wally Pone of Soho. Read more... It was not a success. However, the songs he wrote for the early British rock'n'rollers Tommy Steele (Rock With the Caveman and Little White Bull) and Cliff Richard (Living Doll - at No. 1 for 6 weeks in 1959) brought Lionel his first taste of success. His first musical success was with "Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be". By the end of 1959 both "Fings" and "Lock Up Your Daughters" were running successfully in London's West End. In June 1960 he opened "Oliver!" which had been turned down by a dozen promoters and had to be financed by Bart himself. An immediate hit it received 16 curtain calls on the opening night and had advanced sales of 30,000 in the first week. Oliver! was followed by other fairly successful shows such as Blitz and Maggie May. Bart was just 30 and earning £16 a minute! To finance his next musical "Twang!!" (based on the Robin Hood story) he signed away all rights to Oliver! The new show flopped badly and Bart estimated he lost about one million pounds in that and in the lost rights to Oliver! He filed for bankruptcy in 1972 with debts of £73,000. By the late 1970s his heavy drinking had brought on diabetes. He stopped drinking but one third of his liver had been destroyed. Lionel Bart died aged 68 after suffering cancer for 6 months.