Lucy Simon, Tony-nominated composer of ‘The Secret Garden,’ dies at 82


Lucy Simon, a singer-songwriter and composer who received a Tony nomination in 1991 for her work on the long-running Broadway musical “The Secret Garden,” died Oct. 20 at her home in Piermont, N.Y. She was 82.

Ms. Simon, an older sister of pop superstar Carly Simon, had breast cancer, according to a family spokesperson who confirmed the death to the Associated Press. She died a day after her older sister, Joanna Simon, a former opera singer and cultural correspondent for “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” on PBS.

“The Secret Garden,” featuring a score by Ms. Simon and lyrics and a book by Marsha Norman, opened on Broadway in 1991 to mixed reviews. But it was nominated for six Tony Awards, including best musical and best original score, and won three, including for best book of a musical. The show ran for almost two years and developed a devoted following, with a slightly revised version opening in London’s West End and a pared-down-from-Broadway version going on tour in the United States.

Reviewing a 2016 concert revival of “The Secret Garden” at Lincoln Center, New York Times music critic Stephen Holden called Ms. Simon “an unabashed pop romantic whose best songs express heartfelt sentiments with an eloquent simplicity. Hers is a sensibility well suited to a post-Victorian allegory peopled by restless ghosts and pervaded with a supernatural hush.”

Adapted from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 children’s novel, “The Secret Garden” focuses on Mary, a young English girl forced to move to England from colonial India when her parents die of cholera. She moves in with her uncle Archibald, a hunchback who is mourning his late wife, Lily, and blaming his bedridden son for her death.

While living in her uncle’s home, Mary discovers a hidden and neglected garden that once belonged to Lily, and she and a young gardener bring it back to life. At the same time, she brings new life to her uncle and cousin.

The musical’s songs include “The Girl I Mean to Be,” a showcase for Mary that helped actress Daisy Eagan win a Tony for the role, and “How Could I Ever Know.”

Ms. Simon was born in New York on May 5, 1940, to publisher Richard L. Simon, the co-founder of Simon & Schuster, and his wife, Andrea Heinemann Simon. The second of four children, she said her role in the family “was to be the sweet and accommodating one.”

“Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth,” Carly told the Times in 2015.

After singing and playing guitar at cocktail parties and family events, Carly and Lucy performed together as the Simon Sisters, opening for other acts in Greenwich Village folk clubs. Their recording of “Winkin’, Blinkin’ and Nod” hit No. 73 on the Billboard charts in 1964.

While Carly Simon would find huge success with hits such as “Anticipation,” “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain” and “You’re So Vain,” Lucy went to nursing school and married David Levine, a psychiatrist, whom she met through singer-songwriter Judy Collins.

After taking a break from music to raise their two children, she recorded two solo albums for RCA, “Lucy Simon” (1975) and “Stolen Time” (1977). Ms. Simon and her husband also produced two Grammy-winning children’s albums, “In Harmony” (1980) and “In Harmony 2” (1981), featuring contributions from artists including Carly Simon and her then-husband James Taylor.

Her return to Broadway in 2015 as the composer of “Doctor Zhivago” was less successful. Based on Boris Pasternak’s novel about intertwined lovers during the final days of czarist Russia, it received blistering reviews and lasted less than a month.

In addition to her sister Carly, survivors include her husband; her children, Julie Simon and James Levine; and four grandchildren.

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