On Leonard Bernstein's Centennial, Daughter Jamie Reflects on the Composer's Legacy & Their ‘Raucous’ Household

By Joe Lynch - Billboard Magazine
March 19, 2018

Born Aug. 25, 1918, in Lawrence, Mass., to Ukrainian Jewish parents, Leonard Bernstein would grow up to be one of the most successful and influential composer-conductor-pianists of the 21st century. He set new high-water marks in musical theater with On the Town andWest Side Story, composed operas, ballets and symphonies, and became one of the New York Philharmonic's most celebrated music directors. But unlike most of his peers, Bernstein was as recognizable in popular culture as he was critically renowned. His series of Young People's Concerts on CBS (airing from 1958-1972) brought music education into living rooms around America, and following the assassination of President Kennedy (with whom he was real-life friends), he conducted Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony No. 2 as part of a national televised memorial, making the music of Mahler an indelible part of the American national mourning experience.

Bernstein passed away in 1990, but the public's appreciation for his music and impact continues to grow. With 2018 seeing thousands of Leonard Bernstein centennial events taking place across the globe, Billboard spoke to one of his three children, Jamie Bernstein, about her father. A warm and lively interviewee who seems to have her childhood memories on instant recall, she spoke to Billboard about growing up in a "raucous" musical household, her father's love of the Beatles, and why The Flintstones revealed to her just how famous her father was. She also opened up about her father's sexuality -- a topic that has become more public knowledge over the last few years and will be addressed in greater depth in her upcoming book Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein -- and her own shelved album of singer-songwriter material from back in the day.

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Jamie Bernstein