He is best known for his work on Hair, and in particular three of the songs from the show; "Aquarius", "Let the Sunshine In", and "Good Morning Starshine", all three of which were number one hits in 1969. MacDermot was born in Montreal, Quebec, the son of a Canadian diplomat. He was educated at Upper Canada College and Bishop's University (Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada). He received a Bachelor of Music from Cape Town University, South Africa and made a study of African music his specialty. He also studied the piano privately with Neil Chotem. MacDermot won his first Grammy Award for the Cannonball Adderley recording of his song "African Waltz" (the title track of the album of the same name) in 1960. MacDermot moved to New York City in 1964 where, three years later, he wrote the music for the hit musical Hair, which he later adapted for the 1979 film.
Its Broadway cast album won a Grammy Award in 1969. The song from the musical Hair "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" reached number one for six weeks in 1969. The song Hair reached number one on the charts in 1969. His next musicals were Isabel's a Jezebel (1970) and Who the Murderer Was (1970), which featured British progressive rock band Curved Air.
MacDermot had another hit with the musical Two Gentlemen of Verona (1971), which won the Tony Award for Best Musical. For that show, MacDermot was nominated for a Tony for best music and won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music. His later musicals, however, including Dude and Via Galactica (both 1973) and The Human Comedy (1984), were not successful on Broadway. MacDermot's film soundtracks include Cotton Comes to Harlem, a 1970 blaxploitation film starring Godfrey Cambridge, Raymond St. Jacques and Redd Foxx, based on Chester Himes' novel of the same name; Rhinoceros (1974) starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, and directed by original Broadway Hair director Tom O'Horgan; and Mistress (1992).
MacDermot wrote his own orchestrations and arrangements for his theatre and film scores. In 1979, MacDermot formed the New Pulse Band, which performs and records his original music. The band played as part of the on stage band in the 2009 Broadway revival of Hair. MacDermot's oeuvre also includes ballet scores, chamber music, the Anglican liturgy, orchestral music, poetry, incidental music for plays, band repertory and opera. In 2009 MacDermot was inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame. Film director Jeff Lunger is in the post-production phase of a documentary on the life and work of MacDermot.
Galt Macdermot lived on Staten Island. He has a son, Vincent MacDermot, who plays the trombone and drums on some albums. He also has a daughter, Elizabeth MacDermot, who teaches English at Staten Island Technical High School. On November 22, 2010, MacDermot was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by SOCAN at the 2010 SOCAN Awards in Toronto. MacDermot's music is popular with collectors of jazz and funk. Working with jazz musicians such as Bernard Purdie, Jimmy Lewis and Idris Muhammad, MacDermot created pieces that prefigured the funk material of James Brown.
In recent decades, his work has become popular with hip-hop musicians including Busta Rhymes, who sampled "Space" from MacDermot's 1969 record Woman Is Sweeter for chart-topper "Woo hah!!", and Run DMC, who sampled the Hair song "Where Do I Go?" for their Grammy Award-winning "Down with the King". Handsome Boy Modelling School ("The Truth"), DJ Vadim, DJ Premier and Oh No have all sampled the same segment from "Coffee Cold", from Shapes of Rhythm (1966). As part of his Special Herbs series, rapper MF Doom sampled three MacDermot songs from Woman Is Sweeter: "Cathedral" for his song "Pennyroyal", "Space" for "Cinqfoil", and "Princess Gika" for "Hyssop". In 2006, rapper, Oh No, released an album produced completely with MacDermot samples, titled Exodus into Unheard Rhythms.
Spanish hip-hop group SFDK used MacDermot's "Coffee Cold" for their song "Ternera Podrida" off the 2006 album "Original Rap University". The indie rapper J-Dilla used a sample of MacDermot's song Golden Apples (Part II) on his last album Donuts for his song Mash in 2006. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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