James Rado

Class of 2016

James Rado is an actor, playwright, and composer who is best known for his groundbreaking rock-musical Hair. He won the Grammy Award in 1969 for Best Score, alongside Hair co-creator Gerome Ragni and Galt MacDermot, as well as a Tony Award nomination for Best Musical — and 40 years later stood on the Tony’s stage in 2009 when Hair won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. The music charts were dominated by songs from Hair in 1969 — many seen as anthems of the anti-Vietnam War peace movement — with The Fifth Dimension releasing the medley “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” which topped the charts for six weeks and won Record of the Year. Other hits that reached the second, third, and fourth spots on the Billboard charts, respectively, were The Cowsills’s recording of the title song “Hair”; “Good Morning Starshine” as sung by Oliver; and Three Dog Night’s version of “Easy to Be Hard.”

Rado (born James Alexander Radomski) grew up in Irondequoit and his dream as a teen was to write a Broadway musical. He began writing Hair in 1964 and performed the role of Claude in the original Broadway production when it was staged in 1968. The theatrical show ran for nearly 2,000 performances in both London and New York and set up for years at a time in major cities around the globe. It was made into a hit movie in 1979 and revived on Broadway in 2009 and is currently playing at an Off-Off-Broadway theater in New York. Rado has authored and composed other stage shows since Hair and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2009. Rado’s immense influence on musical theater is evident today, with Hair featuring the first-ever racially integrated cast and also defining the genre of “rock musical.” Proof of that influence is in 2010 all four Tony nominees for Best Musical were rock musicals. In his words, in regard to the intensity of it all: “My mother was so enthralled with her son singing “Where Do I Go” at the end of Act I, she didn’t even see the nude scene that accompanied it. Can you say YOU were there!? Fortunately, I can.”