April 30, 1929 - May 31, 2015 Will Holt was born in 1929 and spent his childhood between Portland and North Bridgton, Maine. He was a singer and musician from an early age, learning to play the piano at six. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy, Williams College and studied with folk singer Richard Dyer-Bennet. He later toured Europe on a motorcycle, seeking out real life experiences and collecting folk songs from country to country, and also served in the Air Force. He married Dolly Jonah Holt, a singer and actress, and they settled in New York's West Village, becoming a part of the emerging bohemian community. Holt was known first and primarily as a folk performer during the '50s and '60s and as an interpreter of the music of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht in performances and recordings with soprano singer Martha Schlamme. Holt recorded songs for several record labels including Coral, Elektra and Atlantic Records and many of his songs were popularized by other artists of the era. Holt wrote his biggest hit in 1957, "Lemon Tree," which has been recorded by a diverse roster of artists including Peter, Paul and Mary, The Kingston Trio, The Seekers, Bob Marley, Sandie Shaw and Trini Lopez. Holt made his Broadway debut in 1969 with "Come Summer" directed by Agnes de Mille. He enjoyed great success with "The Me Nobody Knows," which opened the following year and won him the Drama Desk Award for Most Promising Musical Writer and a Tony nomination for Best Lyrics. In 1974, Holt wrote the book for the musical "Over Here!" starring the Andrews Sisters, with a song score supplied by the Sherman Brothers. With Linda Hopkins, he conceived and wrote "Me and Bessie," a 1975 revue about the life and career of blues singer Bessie Smith. He collaborated with George Abbott and Richard Adler in 1976 on "Music Is," an adaptation of the Shakespeare play "Twelfth Night". He also wrote the lyrics for the 1978 musical "Platinum," starring Alexis Smith as a '40s and'50s film star attempting a comeback as a rock singer. His last Broadway project was the 1979 revival of "A Kurt Weill Cabaret," in which he performed and translated some of the lyrics. Holt won the Los Angeles Dramalogue Critics Award in 1988 for "A Walk on the Wild Side," for which he wrote the book, music and lyrics. Holt is survived by his wife, Dion Alden, and his son, Courtney, who resides in Los Angeles with his wife Carrie and their two children. He will be buried in North Bridgton, Maine at the end of June.
Published in Los Angeles Times from Jun. 6 to Jun. 8, 2015.