Being the lyricist for Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, and The Lion King would in itself be enough to ensure Tim Rice a place in the Broadway pantheon, but those are just three high points in a career teeming with pinnacles. His collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Elton John have resulted in some of the greatest hits in the history of musical theater.
Born in Amersham, England, in 1944, Rice embarked on a career in law but was already strongly attracted to popular music. He met Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1965 and soon found himself writing lyrics to Webber’s music. They initially collaborated on a musical, The Likes of Us, which never took off. But not long afterward the team was asked to write a piece for the Colet Court School and came up with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1968). Interest in the work snowballed, and it continues to be widely performed (it played on Broadway in 1982–83 and 1993–94). Another musical they wrote on a biblical theme, Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), became a smash hit, first as a concept album, then as a staged musical. It opened on Broadway in 1971 and enjoyed revivals there in 1977 and 2000.
Their next collaborative work went in a decidedly secular direction. The subject was Eva Perón, Argentina’s first lady and leader, and a revolutionary named Ché (not Guevara, but partly based on him). The musical, Evita, was another huge success, playing in the West End (1978) and then Broadway (1979), where it scooped up a slew of Tonys®, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical (for Rice), and Best Original Score. The musical was eventually made into a film, with Madonna as Eva Perón; Rice and Lloyd Webber won an Oscar® for the song “You Must Love Me,” specially composed for the movie.
Two of the musicians from the Swedish rock group ABBA collaborated with Rice on an album, Chess (1984), that was worked into a musical staged in the West End in 1986, followed by a Broadway run in 1988. For the Broadway musical Beauty and the Beast (1994), Rice contributed lyrics to supplement those of the late Howard Ashman. The show ran for a staggering 5,461 performances. Rice also contributed lyrics to the animated film Aladdin (1992) and then to Elton John’s music in the mega-hit film The Lion King (1994) – as well as to the 1997 mega-hit musical based on it, which won multiple Tonys® and continues to play on Broadway.
Rice and Elton John teamed up again for a new take on Verdi’s beloved opera Aida, with their own Aida opening on Broadway in 2000. Winning the Tony Award® for Best Original Musical Score, Rice and John had again come up with a winner, which played for four years. The song “Written in the Stars,” from Aida, enjoyed enormous popularity.
Other works to which Rice contributed lyrics include 1984 by Rick Wakeman (1981), the James Bond film Octopussy (1983), Cricket (1986), Blondel (1985), Tycoon (1992), Heathcliff (1996), and King David (1997). He has also written song lyrics for many top performers over the last four decades.
Rice was knighted in 1994.