David Yazbek

David Yazbek

American writer, musician, composer, and lyricist David Yazbek (b. New York City, 1960) has written the music and lyrics to two complete Broadway shows, The Full Monty (2000) and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (2005), for which he was nominated for a total of four Tony Awards®. He also contributed additional material to Bombay Dreams on Broadway in 2004, and has put out four rock albums (Laughing Man 1996, Tock 1998, Tape Recorder: collected works 2005, David Yazbek and His Warmest Regards: Evil Monkey Man 2007). Yazbek’s discography includes the Original Broadway Cast albums of both his hit musicals.

Yazbek was born to a Jewish-Italian mother and an Arab-Lebanese father. In elementary school he started music lessons on the cello, and as a teenager took up the piano. After graduating from Brown University in 1982, he wrote for The Late Show with David Letterman, winning an Emmy® with the rest of the Letterman team in 1986. He then decided to devote himself exclusively to music, and had considerable success writing commercial jingles. From 1987 to 1989 he was part owner of the Manhattan Recording Company.

In 1988 Yazbek wrote the original music for a television play Lip Service, and with high school friend and songwriter Sean Altman, co-wrote the theme song to the Emmy Award®-winning PBS-TV series Where in The World Is Carmen Sandiego? (1991). In the early ‘90s he collaborated on some film music for the short Walking the Dog (1991) and for The Contenders (1993), and for the rest of the decade worked as a producer for Spacehog, Tito Puente, The Persuasions, Queen, and Sarah Saturday as well as the band XTC, whose lead singer Andy Partridge contributed to Yazbek’s own rock albums and the Carmen Sandiego soundtrack.

In 2000, when Broadway composer-lyricist Adam Guettel turned down a proposal to write music and lyrics for a show based on the hit movie The Full Monty, Guettel recommended Yazbek – they had played in a band together. Yazbek collaborated with playwright Terrence McNally to craft an extremely successful musical: it ran for two years, with Yazbek winning the 2001 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music. He also earned the nominations from the Drama Desk and Tony Awards® for his lyrics, and the Tony® nomination for musical score as well, but that year The Producers ran off with all the big prizes.

In 2002 he contributed extra lyrics for another successful musical, Bombay Dreams. His 2005 adaptation of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which ran for 627 performances, brought him two more Tony® nominations and two more Drama Desk nominations.

More recently, David Yazbek has contributed two songs to the soundtrack: of the film The Ten (2007) (“Written in Stone,” “Who Am I And Where Do I Go from Here?”), and has appeared as an actor on television in Wainy Days (2008).

– LEC

Photo courtesy of The Everett Collection