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James Rado, Co-Creator of the Musical ‘Hair,’ Is Dead at 90


Mr. Rado and Mr. Ragni, meanwhile, had decided that their lyrics needed higher melodies than those they’d written, and launched into a seek for a legitimate composer to enhance the songs. The search yielded the Canadian-born Galt MacDermot, a very unlikely alternative: He was barely older than his colleagues and a straight arrow with an eclectic musical background but scant Broadway experience. Mr. MacDermot wrote the melody for versions of “Aquarius” and several other other songs, on spec, in lower than 36 hours. It immediately became clear that he was the perfect alternative for setting Mr. Rado and Mr. Ragni’s lyric ruminations to rocking show music.

An illustration soon ensued in Mr. Papp’s office, with Mr. MacDermot singing and playing the trio’s recent songs. Impressed, Mr. Papp announced that he would open the Public with “Hair.”

Yet, second-guessing himself, he soon rescinded his offer, only to reconsider after a return office audition, this time with Mr. Rado and Mr. Ragni doing the singing. “Hair” did, the truth is, open the Public Theater on Oct. 17, 1967, with the 32-year-old Mr. Ragni leading the solid as George Berger — a hippie tribe’s nominal leader — but without the 35-year-old Mr. Rado, who was deemed too old by the show’s director, Gerald Freedman, to play the doomed protagonist, Claude Hooper Bukowski, regardless that the character was based almost entirely on Mr. Rado himself.

“Hair” — an impressionistic near-fairy tale of a flock of flower children on the streets of Latest York taking LSD, burning draft cards, shocking tourists and making love before losing their conflicted comrade, Claude, to the Vietnam War — ran for eight weeks on the Public’s brand-new Anspacher Theater, generating ecstatic word of mouth and reviews that ranged from perplexed to appreciative.

A wealthy young Midwesterner with political ambitions and robust antiwar politics named Michael Butler stepped in to maneuver the show, first to Cheetah, a nightclub on West 53rd Street, after which — much rewritten by Mr. Rado and his collaborators, and with a visionary recent director, Tom O’Horgan, now in charge — on to Broadway, where Mr. Rado was restored to the solid as Claude.

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