Jacques Levy

Jacques Levy (29 July 1935 – 30 September 2004) was an American songwriter, theatre director and clinical psychologist.

Jacques Lèvy
Born(1935-07-29)July 29, 1935
New York City, New York, United States
DiedSeptember 30, 2004(2004-09-30) (aged 69)
New York City, New York, United States
Occupation(s)Theatre director, songwriter
Associated actsRoger McGuinn
Bob Dylan

Early life and educationEdit

Levy was born in New York City in 1935 and graduated from the City College of New York in 1956. He then received his M.A. (1958) and Ph.D. (1961) in psychology from Michigan State University and was certified by the Menninger Institute for Psychoanalysis in Topeka, Kansas. After returning to New York, he practiced as a clinical psychologist while pursuing his avocation in the city's experimental theatre scene.


In 1965, Levy directed Sam Shepard's play Red Cross at the Judson Poets Theater, New York City.[1] The following year he directed two of the short plays in Jean-Claude van Itallie's America Hurrah.[2] In 1969, Levy directed the successful off-Broadway erotic revue Oh! Calcutta![3][4]

During this period, Levy approached Roger McGuinn of The Byrds to collaborate on Gene Tryp, a project inspired by Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt. While development of the musical stalled (a revised iteration was eventually performed at Colgate University in 1993), one song, "Chestnut Mare," became the single released from the album (Untitled) in 1970. Although it only peaked at #121 in the United States, the song reached #19 in the United Kingdom and ultimately became an enduring FM radio staple in America.[5] Many further Levy-McGuinn songs appeared on Byrds and McGuinn albums during the 1970s. In 1973, Levy and Van Itallie reunited for Mystery Play, which starred Judd Hirsch and ran for 14 performances off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre.[6] The songwriting partnership between McGuinn and Levy endured until 1977's Thunderbyrd, a McGuinn solo album.

In the mid-seventies, Levy met Bob Dylan through McGuinn. Shortly thereafter, the two collaborated on "Isis" and another six songs which appeared on Dylan's 1976 album Desire. These included "Hurricane" (about wrongfully accused and imprisoned boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter) and "Joey" (an ode to the American Mafia gangster and hitman Joe Gallo). Levy was the stage director of both the 1975 and 1976 legs of Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue.[7]

In 1980, he staged Stephen Poliakoff's play American Days at Manhattan Theatre Club, which featured David Blue, one of the performers in the Rolling Thunder Revue. Frank Rich in his review for The New York Times wrote: "Jacques Levy, the director, matches the crackling energy of the text blow for blow."[8] In 1983 he staged Doonesbury: A Musical Comedy (based on Garry Trudeau's Pulitzer Prize-winning comic strip Doonesbury) on Broadway.[9] In 1988 he provided the lyrics for the stage musical of the film Fame. Later came Marat/Sade (1994), Bus Stop (1997), and Brecht on Brecht (2000, in New York City).[10]

From 1993 until his death from cancer in 2004, he was a professor of English and director of the drama program at Colgate University in upstate New York.

Personal lifeEdit

He had two children, Maya and Julien, with his wife Claudia.

Theatrical creditsEdit


Note: Fame, the stage musical, was not presented on Broadway, but has been playing in London's West End since 1995.

Off Broadway

  • America Hurrah (1966) – play – director – Pocket Theatre – American premiere
  • Mystery Play (1973) – play – director – Cherry Lane Theatre – American premiere
  • American Days (1980) – play – director – Manhattan Theatre Club – American premiere
  • TRYP (2005) – play – dramaturge


  1. ^ Red Cross samshepard.com, accessed August 21, 2015
  2. ^ America Hurrah Archived 2012-10-21 at the Wayback Machine lortel.org, accessed August 21, 2015
  3. ^ Oh! Calcutta! Archived 2015-10-20 at the Wayback Machine lortel.org, accessed August 21, 2015
  4. ^ Jones, Kenneth and Simonson, Robert. "Jacques Levy, Director of Broadway's Oh! Calcutta! and Doonesbury, Dead at 69", Playbill, October 4, 2004
  5. ^ "Chestnut Mare - The Byrds | Song Info | AllMusic" – via www.allmusic.com.
  6. ^ Mystery Play lortel.org, accessed August 21, 2013
  7. ^ Padgett, Ray (November 21, 2020). "Jacques Levy's Wife Explains the Late Director's Role on Rolling Thunder". Flagging Down the Double E's. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  8. ^ Rich, Frank. "Stage: American days a British Comedy" New York Times, January 2, 2981
  9. ^ a b "Jacques Levy Broadway" playbillvault, accessed August 21, 2015
  10. ^ Brecht on Brecht theatermania.com, accessed August 21, 2015

External linksEdit