Skip to Content | Skip to Navigation | Site Map

The only Stephen Schwartz biography:

 Stephen Schwartz biography Defying Gravity cover

Defying Gravity: the Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked

Defying Gravity takes readers into the creative world of Broadway and film composer Stephen Schwartz, from writing Godspell's score at age 23 through the making of the megahit musical Wicked.

Buy Defying Gravity online

Buy the first edition paperback while you can, as it is out of print from the publisher (as of Dec 2016). Copies are available through these sources: Ordering sources: Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked. Read this book in PRINT or EBOOK format on your Kindle, Ipad, Nook, other tablets, on your PC or phones. The tablet versions include many photos in full color.

A revised second edition is being planned for 2018 or later, with updates and cuts.

Carol de Giere author, Stephen Schwartz, composer

Photo: Biographer Carol de Giere meeting with composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz, February 2017, regarding the forthcoming revised edition.

Read More

Sample Chapter - WICKED: Sample chapter from the Wicked section - "Landing in Oz" chapter 16 [PDF file opens in new window]

"Exceptionally readable and visually appealing"

Pippin chapter imageGo Behind the Scenes! Author Carol de Giere draws from 80 hours of interviews with Schwartz and over 100 interviews with his colleagues, friends, and family. Her sympathetic yet frank narrative reveals never-before-told stories and explores both Schwartz's phenomenal hits and expensive flops. Wicked handwritten musicDefying Gravity includes a series of "Creativity Notes" with insights about artistic life, over 200 photos and illustrations, some handwritten music from Wicked and Godspell, and hundreds of quotes from Schwartz and colleagues.

Reviews: Defying Gravity Reviews

Table of Contents: Contents: Defying Gravity

Composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz and author Carol de Giere

Photo: Composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz and biographer Carol de Giere at book talk in Chicago in 2009.

Stephen Schwartz biography - Why read a book about Stephen Schwartz?

This Oscar and Grammy-Award winning songwriter's journey is one of sensational successes and dramatic flops. Without reliance on substance abuse to get through the lows, Schwartz continually picked himself up after discouraging reviews and experiences, and rose again for such achievements as creating the score for Wicked.

The Musicals of Stephen Schwartz

Defying Gravity biography covers all of the musicals with Stephen Schwartz scores and/or lyrics.

Stage Musicals
1971: Godspell — (music and new lyrics)
1971: Bernstein’s Mass — (additional lyrics)
1972: Pippin — (music and lyrics)
1974: The Magic Show — (music and lyrics)
1976: The Baker’s Wife — (music and lyrics)
1978: Working — (four songs, direction and co-adaptation)
1985: Personals — (music for three songs)
1986: Rags — (lyrics)
1991: Children of Eden — (music and lyrics)
1999: Der Glöckner von Notre Dame — (lyrics)
2003: Wicked — (music and lyrics)
2005: Captain Louie — (music and lyrics)
2005: Mit Eventyr — (music and lyrics for eight songs)
2006: Geppetto & Son — (music and lyrics)
Movie Musicals
1973: Godspell — (music and new lyrics)
1995: Pocahontas — (lyrics)
1996: The Hunchback of Notre Dame — (lyrics)
1998: The Prince of Egypt — (music and lyrics)
2000: Geppetto — (music and lyrics)
2007: Enchanted — (lyrics)

Find out more by visiting

Defying Gravity the Book Title and the Song "Defying Gravity"

Carol de Giere named the book after the exhilarating first act climax of Wicked when the show's heroine sings "Defying Gravity." The book attests to Schwartz's determination to follow his vision despite setbacks and negative criticism. Defying Gravity includes a multi-page spread about the collaborative development of the "Defying Gravity" scene and song in the show.

For more about the song visit the "Defying Gravity" page at "Defying Gravity" lyrics, etc.

Excepts from Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked.


...Stephen Lawrence Schwartz, the future award-winning composer-lyricist, had arrived at dawn on March 6, 1948, in New York City, where the Schwartz family lived until they moved to France fifteen months later. His father, Stanley (“Stan”) Schwartz, a disabled World War II veteran, used GI Bill funds for college tuition to enroll in graduate school in Paris.

During the family’s year and a half overseas, Sheila observed how quickly her son learned two languages. “He would speak to his little French friends in French and then he’d turn and speak in English to me.”

Even more noteworthy to his parents than his facility with language was Stephen’s love of music. His favorite toy wasn’t a stuffed animal or his little red wagon, but rather his phonograph on which he played yellow 78 rpm records. “There was always music in our house, since I’m a music lover,” says Sheila, who had sung in shows in high school.....

College at Carnegie Mellon University - Becoming a Composer-Lyricist

...He would always count his training in the dramatic arts as essential for his future artistic efforts. “I decided to go to drama school when I went to college, rather than majoring in music,” Schwartz explained to an interviewer later in his career. “I think everybody writing for theatre should take acting, because the processes are so similar. A lot of writers don’t understand how to get that internal process going, so they write songs that are nice but not really actable.”

He continually relies on lessons from the drama world for his work and teaching. “For me, when I am working on a musical number for a show, the story I am trying to tell comes first. It is a little like an acting exercise—I try to become the character, think about what the character’s action is (what he or she is trying to ‘do’ at that moment), and then express myself as that character would.”

It was at Carnegie, also, that he decided to focus on lyrics as well as music. “I had always wanted to be a composer, and then I began being my own lyricist in college because I couldn’t find people to write lyrics for my songs whose work I felt strongly enough about.

Thus he became that rarity in the world of musicals—a “composer-lyricist.”

A Three-Act Life

Author's notes from the book's introduction:

....The main narrative of Defying Gravity covers musical-making creativity within the context of Stephen Schwartz’s career. From his childhood dream of writing musicals through Wicked’s opening on Broadway, the book follows the peaks and crises of his artistic life—a storyline that is reminiscent of a three-act play.

In Act I, Schwartz burst onto the New York City theatre scene with a succession of hits: Godspell, Pippin, and The Magic Show. With Act II, he faced a series of disheartening flops: The Baker’s Wife, Working, Rags, and Children of Eden in London. For Act III, he bounced back with songs for award-winning films, and the mega-hit musical Wicked.....

Creativity Notes from Stephen Schwartz

Creativity Notes

Why read this Stephen Schwartz biography? Anyone working on their own creative projects will enjoy the insights for artistic life in Defying Gravity, as the author quotes Schwartz and others sharing insights about the creative process.

In the "Creativity Notes," Schwartz describes tapping the subconscious mind, overcoming creative blocks, writing for character detail, surviving countless rewrites, working with feedback, and other topics.

A list of Creativity Notes - from the Index of Defying Gravity:
Adventure and Risk, 265
Alan Menken Speaks on Creative Blocks and Rewrites, 490
Artistic Ego, 118
A Structuring and Compartmentalizing Mind, 285
A Working Process That Connects With Feeling, 29
Collaborative Support, 399
Communication Styles in a Collaboration, 100
Comparison—A Creative Block to Avoid, 74
Compression and Expansion, 83
Creating A Peak Moment—Defying Gravity, 366–368
Creating Character Through Realistic Detail, 155
Creative Discipline and Writer’s Block, 489
Dealing With Criticism, 183
Dramatic Anger and Creativity, 325
Finding the Song Moments in a Story, 247
Holding Steady and Being Flexible, 411
Interviewing— A Technique for Songwriting, 512
Knowing When to Quit, 78
Musical Diving Boards, 459
Paths of Least Resistance, 299
Production Values—Moving to Final Form, 198
Solving Problems of Placement, 170
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants:
Following Models, 238
Subterranean Ways, 33
Surviving Bad Drafts and Endless Rewrites, 359
The Delicate Question of Who’s Right, 311
The Playfulness Factor, 65
Timing for Going Public, 223
Tonal Disparity and Finding the Right Mix, 140
Tonal Disparity and Finding the Right Mix #2, 191
Writing to Please an Audience of One, 440

Product Details for this Stephen Schwartz Biography

Defying Gravity: the Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked

  • Publisher: Applause Theatre and Cinema Books
  • Release date September 2008
  • Musical Theatre
  • ISBN: 978-1-55783-745-5
  • 544 pages
  • 7-1/2" x 9"
  • Paperback Original
  • Over 200 Black and White Photos and Illustrations Throughout
  • HL 00314791
  • US $24.95
  • Detailed Index, bibliography, chapter notes

Sample Library Cataloging Data

Author: de Giere, Carol.

Title: Defying gravity : the creative career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked / Carol de Giere.

Imprint: New York : Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2008.

Description: 535 p. : ill., music ; 23 cm.

Note: Includes bibliographical references (p. 514-519) and index.

Subject: Schwartz, Stephen; Composers -- Biography; Lyricists -- Biography; Musicals -- History and criticism.

ISBN: 9781557837455

Sample call numbers used in libraries: Library of Congress: ML410.S42 D44 2008; Dewey: 782.14 DEG or as biography B Schwartz

Book Cover Credits:

Margo Mooney, cover design
Scott Mullin, photograph of Stephen Schwartz
Martha Swope, photograph of Ben Vereen performing as the Leading Player in Pippin (top right)
Joan Marcus, photograph of Eden Espinosa performing as Elphaba in Wicked
Martha Swope, photograph of Doug Henning and Dale Soules performing as Doug and Cal in The Magic Show
Theatre Maximus, Godspell logo
Book Design:
V Paul Smith Jr

Official website for Defying Gravity: the Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked (musical theatre biography)

Official website for Defying Gravity: the Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked (musical theatre biography)

Buy it online:

Autographed copies signed by Stephen Schwartz and the author: Contact Carol de Giere

Your local bookstore can order it from their wholesaler.
PRINT AND EBOOKS: -(Print and Kindle Editions)
Barnes and Noble (print and Nook)
Defying Gravity for Apple Products - iPhone, iPad, etc.
Google eBookstore (e-Readers - Tablets, Phones, etc.)
Dresscircle London
Defying Gravity in Australia


Your local bookseller will be able to order the book from their usual wholesaler. ISBN: 978-1557837455. Retail $24.95 US price.