Composed songs for numerous musicals including Fiorello! from 1959 and Fiddler on the Roof from 1964.
He studied piano as a young boy. He wrote his first musical, Big As Life, while a student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
He was honored with three Tony Awards, one for Fiorello! and two for Fiddler on the Roof. His Fiorello! also won the 1960 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
He had two children with wife Patricia.
His Broadway play Fiorello! revolved around former New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia.