×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Robert Arthur, Music Director for ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ Dies at 89

Robert Arthur, the music director for “The Ed Sullivan Show” from the 1950s through the ’70s, died on Jan. 21. He was 89.

A Long Island native, Arthur graduated from Colgate University with degrees in economics and Spanish, and began a career as an accompanist, conductor, and arranger. He was drafted into the United States Army during the Korean War, where he served for two years as a bayonet instructor.

After returning from the war in 1952, Ray Bloch hired Arthur to be an assistant on “The Ed Sullivan Show” — then called “Toast of the Town” — and “The Jackie Gleason Show.” Arthur worked his way up until he was hired full-time as the musical director for “The Ed Sullivan Show,” arranging, supervising, composing, and working with guests.

One of Arthur’s most famous fixes was in the 1967 when the Rolling Stones guested on the show. CBS censors would not allow the lyrics to the Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” so Arthur worked with Mick Jagger to come up with a solution. Rather than “let’s spend the night together,” Jagger would sing “let’s spend some time together.”

“The Stones wanted to capture America and it wouldn’t help them to challenge CBS, so it was a solution that made everyone happy,” Arthur said.

“Bob Arthur was the first one to talk Diana Ross into doing classics rather than just doing the pop stuff,” “Ed Sullivan Show” director John Moffitt recounted on the Ed Sullivan website. “He talked her into doing Rodgers and Hammerstein and other composers. He helped to diversify her material and her career.”

When the show ended in 1971, Arthur moved to California, where he started working for Dick Clark Productions on the American Music Awards. He wrote the script, the music, and produced special portions of the show. Arthur would go on to produce dozens of music awards shows over the next four decades, working with artists like Michael Jackson and Natalie Cole.

Since retiring, Arthur continued to compose music in the style of Cole Porter and the Gershwins.

“It if moves, fine. If it doesn’t, that’s OK, too,” he said. “Most of my pleasure comes from writing a great thing and enjoying listening to it. It’s almost like I didn’t have anything to do with it — the song just pops out.”

More TV

  • Amy Poehler Is Ready for a

    Amy Poehler Is Ready for a 'Parks and Rec' Reunion

    Is Amy Poehler just getting our hopes up? We hope not, because the funny lady tells Variety that she’s ready for a “Parks and Recreation” reunion. “I am technically available,” Poehler said on Monday at Smart Girls’ 10th anniversary celebration dinner. “I have like six of Leslie’s blazers in my closet, so anytime.” “Parks and Recreation” [...]

  • Liz Meriwether Lake Bell

    Lake Bell, Liz Meriwether Comedy 'Bless This Mess' Moves From Fox to ABC With Series Order

    “Bless This Mess,” the single-camera comedy co-created by Lake Bell and Elizabeth Meriwether, has been ordered to series at ABC, Variety has learned. The series had previously been in contention at Fox and is a co-production between 20th Century Fox Television and ABC Studios. Bell also stars in the series alongside Dax Shepard. In the series, a [...]

  • 'Get Shorty' Renewed for Season 3

    'Get Shorty' Renewed for Season 3 at Epix

    Epix has renewed “Get Shorty” for Season 3. The loose adaptation of the 1990 Elmore Leonard novel and subsequent film stars Chris O’Dowd, Ray Romano, Lidio Porto, Megan Stevenson, Sean Bridgers, and Carolyn Dodd. In the series, O’Dowd plays a hitman from Nevada who struggles to shed his criminal past after he moves to Hollywood to [...]

  • Goliath Season 2 Amazon

    Amazon Renews 'Goliath' for Season 3

    Amazon has renewed legal drama “Goliath” for a third season. “Goliath” centers on washed-up lawyer Billy McBride, played by Billy Bob Thornton, who has one shot at redemption after a client he successfully defended from a murder charge went on to slaughter a family. Thornton won a Golden Globe for his performance in 2017. “Our [...]

  • Selena Quintanilla

    Selena Quintanilla Scripted Series Gets Greenlight at Netflix

    Netflix has ordered a scripted drama series based on the life of Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla. The series is described as a coming of age story following Selena as her dreams come true and all the heart-wrenching and life-changing choices she and her family have to make as they navigate success, family, and music. “Selena [...]

  • Detroiters Renewed Season 2 Comedy Central

    'Detroiters' Canceled at Comedy Central After Two Seasons

    Comedy Central has canceled its Motor City series “Detroiters” after two seasons. The scripted half-hour from Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video and Comedy Central Productions bowed in early 2017. Season two premiered in June. The buddy comedy was created by stars Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson along with “Saturday Night Live” veterans Zach Kanin and Joe [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content