Composer, Donald Alan Siegal dies at 53

January 13, 2004

By Variety Staff

Donald Alan Siegal, versatile composer-lyricist for television, recordings and the stage, died of leukemia Jan. 13 at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 53.
Siegal emerged from the hothouse of musical talent presided over by Lehman Engel in the BMI Musical Theater Workshop, whose members at the time of his participation included Alan Menken, Maury Yeston, Edward Kleban and Susan Birkenhead, with whom Siegal went on to collaborate.

Birkenhead wrote lyrics and Siegal the music for the 1978 NBC-TV children's special "Alex and the Wonderful Doo-Wah Lamp," part of the series "Unicorn Tales." They also collaborated on a stage musical, "A Long Way to Boston," starring Nancy Dussault and Rita Gardner and produced at the Goodspeed Opera House in 1979.

A 1972 graduate of NYU, Mr. Siegal studied at the Berklee College of Music and the Mannes College of Music. A skilled pianist, he once entertained thoughts of becoming a jazz pianist, but he said jokingly, "then I heard Bill Evans. I didn't become a jazz musician because of Bill Evans."

His humor was particularly in evidence in his work for children's songs. As a staff writer for "Captain Kangaroo," he wrote more than 50 songs for the program. For "Sesame Street," working with Jim Henson, he wrote songs for the major Muppet characters, including Ernie, Kermit, Oscar, Big Bird and the Count. He also wrote songs for guest artists on the program.

In the field of animation, Siegal wrote music and lyrics for Trisha Yearwood for "The Tangerine Bear," a Disney/ABC Sunday night special. He also wrote stories and songs for Warner Bros.' "Frosty the Snowman."

Blossom Dearie, Roberta Flack, Betty Buckley, Faith Prince and Debbie Shapiro are among the other artists who performed or recorded Siegal's songs.

At the time of his death he was working on a musical comedy with Ron Clark and a musical drama with Arthur Kopit.

He is survived by his partner, Eve Benskin.