Martin Charnin, who created and directed the first production of the iconic Broadway musical Annie, has died. He was 84.
Charnin’s daughter Sasha confirmed the news in a Facebook post on Sunday, writing that he passed after suffering a minor heart attack on July 3.
“Martin Charnin lived a very full life,” she wrote. “His strength was astounding. He’s in a painless place, now. Probably looking for Cole Porter and Ira Gershwin.”
Charnin won a Tony Award for Best Original Score, with composer Charles Strouse, for Annie. The production, which performed 2,377 shows in its original 1977 Broadway run, won seven Tonys total, including for Best Musical.
Charnin created the musical from the Harold Gray comic strip about Little Orphan Annie, a street smart girl who becomes mentored by a grumpy billionaire. The success of Annie spawned three film adaptations, including the 1982 film starring Aileen Quinn and the recent 2014 update with Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx.
Born in 1934, Charnin was the son of an opera singer. He grew up in New York and got his first taste of Broadway after scoring a part in West Side Story during an open call, despite having no performance training.
He began his career penning lyrics for cabaret shows and revues and produced shows featuring performers like Dionne Warwick and Leslie Uggams. In 1963, Charnin made his Broadway lyricist debut with Hot Spot, which he wrote with Mary Rodgers.
Charnin went on to write lyrics for dozens of productions, including seven Broadway musicals. He directed seven shows as well. He also received three Emmys for his work on television variety specials, and a Grammy for Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem),” which sampled the lyrics from Annie.
David Alan Grier, who starred in Charnin’s The First musical about Jackie Robinson, remembered the late artist on Twitter. “Rest In Peace Martin Charnin,” Grier wrote. “He discovered me. Gave me my first job in this business. My thoughts and prayers are with his family in this difficult and sad time.”
Charnin is survived by his wife, seven children, and three grandchildren. In her Facebook post, Charnin’s daughter Sasha remembered him by quoting Annie: “As corny as this sounds…the sun’ll will come out tomorrow. Rest In Peace, Daddy. We love you.”