In Memoriam: Michael Friedman, Composer and Lyricist

by Michael Eddy

Obie-award winning composer and lyricist Michael Friedman passed away on Saturday, September 9th at the age of 41 due to complications related to HIV/AIDS. Friedman was the Artistic Director of Encores! Off-Center at New York City Center, co-founder of The Civilians, and an artist-in-residence and director of Public Forum at The Public Theater. 

Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis and Executive Director Patrick Willingham, along with the Friedman family, shared the news of Friedman’s untimely death. “Michael Friedman was one of the most brilliant, multi-talented theater artists of our time,” said Eustis. “He was also a miracle of a human being: loving, kind, generous, hilarious, thrilling. His loss leaves a hole in the theater world that cannot be filled, and a hole in the hearts of those who loved him that will last forever.”

Friedman credits include the musicals Unknown Soldier, Pretty Filthy, The Fortress of Solitude, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, the last of which premiered at The Public Theater before transferring to Broadway. With the acclaimed company The Civilians, he has also written music and lyrics for Canard, Canard, Goose?, Gone Missing, Nobody’s Lunch, This Beautiful City, In the Footprint, and The Great Immensity, and music for Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns. With Steve Cosson, he is the co-author of Paris Commune (BAM Next Wave Festival). Friedman has been a MacDowell Fellow, a Princeton Hodder Fellow, a Meet the Composer Fellow, and a Barron Visiting Professor at The Princeton Environmental, was featured at Lincoln Center’s American Songbook, and “The New Yorker Radio Hour” on WNYC featured his songs about the 2016 election. Friedman received an Obie Award in 2007 for sustained achievement.

“Michael brought so much joy and beauty and humor to our lives,” said his sister Marion Friedman Young. “To lose him so soon is devastating. We are so grateful to the people who loved him, made art with him, and were so supportive of his work, and made it possible for Michael's extraordinary gifts to reach so many people."

He is survived by his parents Carolyn and John Friedman, his sister Marion Friedman Young and his nephew John Henry Young.