Sir Tim Rice receives honorary degree from Leeds Beckett
Sir Tim is best known for his collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber, with whom he wrote the renowned musicals Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita and for his work with Walt Disney Studios and Alan Menken which resulted in the soundtracks to a range of well-loved films, including Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King for which he collaborated with Elton John.
Sir Tim was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts on Friday 24 July, for his contribution to the arts.
On receiving his award, Tim said: “I am very honoured to be given any award at all in any circumstance and one from such a distinguished university is terrific. I’m an admirer of Yorkshire County Cricket Club and have been to Headingley quite a lot and I did Countdown here quite a bit – I have a soft spot for Leeds.”
Sir Tim grew up in Buckinghamshire and was educated at Lancing College and briefly at l’Université de Paris – Sorbonne. Originally planning a career as a solicitor, Sir Tim became a management trainee at EMI records in 1965. After meeting Andrew Lloyd Webber, a fellow struggling songwriter, they began pursuing their musical theatre collaboration.
“I never really thought about going into the theatre world when I was young, I didn’t know much about the theatre but I knew a little bit about musicals from my parent’s record collection. It was through meeting Andrew Lloyd Webber really. I was writing pop songs, he was trying to write theatre stuff, our paths crossed and we decided to go for his idea, which was very sensible because we would never have been better than the Beatles or the Rolling Stones but there was nobody doing what we were trying to do so we were number one in a field of one for a while.”
Sir Tim is currently working on a show based on the life of Machiavelli and a new production of From Here to Eternity for Broadway, as well as writing songs for a new film version of Beauty and the Beast, to be released in 2017. However his main priority going forward is his children’s careers: “I’m more interested in what my children do. I think when you get to a certain stage you want your offspring to have a happy life and success more than you do for yourself.”
Sir Tim was knighted for his services to music in 1994 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is also a fellow of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. Aside from his theatre and film work, Tim has written columns for UK newspapers, as well as appearing on broadcast media.
In addition to musicals and feature films, Sir Tim Rice has written countless pop songs, many of which have enjoyed chart success. He has written the lyrics for solo songs for various performers including Sarah Brightman, Michael Crawford, Placido Domingo, David Essex, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, and Elvis Presley, as well as for groups 10cc and INXS.
Sir Tim has received accolades including Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Grammy Awards and Tony Awards.
Asked about career highlights, Tim said: “having a hit record in America with Jesus Christ Superstar was totally unexpected and was our first success. I think that is always going to be a highlight when you first break through. Probably the best opening night we ever had was Evita in London in 1978 and since then it has been all downhill!”
In an industry renowned for being tough and give recent cuts to funding, Tim had the following advice for graduating arts students: “You’ve got to be quite enthusiastic about your job, there’s no point in doing something you don’t like. I started out in law which I thought was a thing I should do but I didn’t like it so was therefore no good at it. If you are genuinely interested in the arts, even if you don’t think you have an incredibly basic talent, there’s so many things you can do in the arts world that aren’t actually being an artist; you can be behind the scenes which doesn’t involve you getting up on the stage or painting etc. It’s the people behind the scenes that make the most money.”
Leeds Beckett University Vice Chancellor, Professor Susan Price, said: “Sir Tim Rice is an inspirational and prolific figure in the history of British music and theatre. It was delight to welcome him to our Headingley Campus and to recognise his enormous contribution to music and the arts.”