Gerome Ragni

HAIR - Playwright, Lyricist, and Actor

Pittsburgh born Gerome Ragni, along with Jim Rado, wrote the musical Hair and the lyrics for its songs.  Galt Mac Dermot scored the music to Ragni and Rado’s words.  The show ran for four years on Broadway.  The Hair album won a Grammy in 1969. A hit film was mode in 1979. The theatrical show ran for nearly 2000 performances in both London and New York.  The show toured around the world.

Songs from Hair have been recorded by the Fifth Dimension, Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross and Liza Minnelli. The Fifth Dimension medley of “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” won Record of the Year in 1969 and topped the charts for six weeks. Other songs from the show became top 10 hits:: The Cowsills’s recording of the song “Hair” reached #2 on the Billboard charts, “Good Morning Starshine” sung by Oliver reached #3, and Three Dog Night’s of “Easy to Be Hard” hit at #4..

Jerome Ragni was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1935 into a large Italian family. He grew up in East Carnegie across the street from a steel mill.  After high school in the 1950s he joined the Air Force and was stationed as a medic near Washington, DC.  He studied acting at Georgetown University an American University.  Wanting a more theatric name, he changed his first name the Gerome. Gerome made his acting debut in Washington in 1954, before moving to New York. 

In New York Ragni found work in off-Broadway productions.  He won  the Barter Theatre Award for Outstanding Actor. In 1963 for his role in the hit play War at the Village South Theater.  He performed in a production of Hamlet in 1964 directed by John Gielgud that starred Richard Burton along with Hume Cronyn, and Alfred Drake. Gerry also appeared in the in the film version of the show released by Warner Brothers in 1964. Ragni later became a lead actor in the improvisational company Joseph Chaikin's Open Theatre. After a lead role in a hit play called Viet Rock, Ragni decided to write an experimental show with Jim Rado about hippies.

Rado and Ragni wrote the lyrics to thirteen songs and a first draft of the show.titled Hair.  Producer Nat Shapiro brought in composer Galt MacDermot to write the music.  Hair opened in 1967 at the Public theater and re-opened at the Biltmore Theatre on Broadway.in 1968.  Ragni wrote and produced several other shows before his death in 1991.

Ragni was inducted into the Song Writers Hall of Fame.