I was born in the Bronx and raised in Manhattan. I attended the High School of Music and Art, got my BA in English at Amherst, and then did graduate work in musical composition at Columbia University. I was fortunate, early in my career, to meet Johnny Mercer, who became a good friend and mentor. My first job was as an assistant to Oscar Hammerstein, during the pre-Broadway run of “Flower Drum Song.” So, I really got some wonderful learning experiences when I started out.
While writing shows that aimed for Broadway but never got there, I earned a living doing industrial shows (lavish musicals that large corporations put on to introduce new products).
My career is well documented on this website, so I won’t go into it here. But in the 21st century, I began a new career as a novelist. The film rights to my first book “Dangerous Behavior” were sold to Paramount. Subsequently, my wife and I found a nice place in East Hampton, which was the impetus to write a series about Jericho, an East Hampton detective. I am also writing a sequel to my first book.
My main musical project now is “Langston in Harlem” in which I’ve set the great Harlem poet’s words to music. It had a successful run at Urban Stages in NYC and is now awaiting a production by Classical Theater of Harlem (once the world’s health issues are resolved). Also scheduled in the future is a dance piece, using music from the show, by the Alvin Ailey Dance Company.
I have been married forever to my lovely wife and muse, Joan Brooker-Marks, who is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Happily, we have no children; we long ago agreed that parenthood is not for us.
We live in NYC right next to Carnegie Hall, and also in EH, right next to some dunes.
Walter Marks is probably best known for his song “I’ve Gotta be Me”, recorded by Sammy Davis, Tony Bennett, Michael Jackson and many others. He has also written songs recorded by Barbra Streisand, The Temptations, Ella Fitzgerald, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme, and other artists.
He wrote the songs for the Broadway musicals “Bajour” and “Golden Rainbow”, the book, music and lyrics for the off-Broadway musical “Body Shop”, the screenplay and songs for the motion picture “The Wild Party” (Merchant-Ivory Films - directed by James Ivory). He also wrote the off-Broadway comedy-mystery “The Butler Did It”.
On television, he won an Emmy award for his music on the PBS Series “Getting On”, and wrote songs for the ABC series “That’s Life”, and the NBC Hallmark Hall of Fame production of “Pinocchio”.
His musical “Langston in Harlem” was produced in NYC at Urban Stages. The show won 4 Audelco/Vivian Robinson Awards for Excellence in Black Theater, including best musical. The show is now headed for production by the Classical Theatre of Harlem.
His other current theatre projects are — “Dig Lenny Bruce” a musical about the controversial comedian, and “Jack Johnson at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus”, a show about the first black heavyweight champion of the world. Also, he wrote the libretto to “My Shining Hour” featuring the songs of Johnny Mercer.
Walter Marks’ first novel — “Dangerous Behavior”, a psychological thriller, was published in hardcover by Carroll & Graf. The book was purchased by Paramount Pictures. The sequel “Risk of Violence” is in the works.
His second book is a crime/thriller introducing Detective Jericho — "Death Hampton". (Top Tier Publishers) available on Amazon (print) and Kindle. The sequel — "The Battle of Jericho" and “The Hated” and “A Man’s Partner” are also for sale online. Recent Jericho novels are “Amazing Detective” and “Tumbling Down.” and “Shocking Confessions”. Coming soon — “Rip Saw”.
In addition, he has produced and written the musical score for a documentary film on Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, which is directed by his wife, prizewinning documentary filmmaker, Joan Brooker-Marks.