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Broadway Composer, Lyricist, Playwright, and Performer Micki Grant Dies at 80

The Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope writer-performer had a storied career on and off stage.

Micki Grant was an award-winning actor, composer, playwright, lyricist, and director.
(© David Gordon)

Acclaimed actor, writer, composer, and lyricist Micki Grant died on August 22. She was 80.

Grant is best known for her 1972 hit Broadway show Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope, for which she penned book, music, and lyrics — in addition to performing in the show. It ran over 1,000 performances, earning Grant three Tony nominations and two Drama Desk Awards. She also won the Grammy for Best Cast Album that year. "It's easy to see why she earned a Grammy for her work," critic David Gordon wrote about the 2018 Encores! concert revival, "Her songs have the kind of rhythms that instantly make us dance in our seats, while her lyrics are intelligent and witty and so warm."

Don't Bother Me I Can't Cope was the product of a long and fruitful collaboration with director Vinnette Carroll. When the show reached Broadway's Playhouse Theatre after an out-of-town tryout, Carroll became the first Black woman to helm a Broadway production, and Grant became the first woman to write both music and lyrics to a Broadway musical. Grant and Carroll followed that success in 1976 with Your Arms Too Short to Box With God, which played on Broadway until 1978 and enjoyed two revivals in the 80s. Carroll died in 2002.

Broadway was just a small part of Grant's contribution to the performing arts. Born Minnie Perkins on June 30, 1941 (she would go on to dispute this date without providing an alternative), Grant took an early interest in performing and music, becoming an accomplished violinist, bassist, and pianist. She attended the Chicago School of Music and the University of Illinois before departing to New York to pursue a career on the stage.

Barbara Rodell and Micki Grant appear in the daytime drama Another World in 1968.
(© NBC)

In the early 1960s she appeared in the off-Broadway production of Jean Genet's The Blacks, a show that over its long run featured performances by James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, and Maya Angelou. Grant later appeared off-Broadway in Brecht on Brecht and the 1964 revival of The Cradle Will Rock. She made her Broadway debut in the 1963 production of Langston Hughes's Tambourines to Glory.

Television audiences across the country got to know Grant as lawyer Peggy Nolan on the daytime soap opera Another World, a role she played from 1966-1973. Hers was the first major storyline written for a Black actor on daytime television. She would go on to appear on The Edge of Night and Guiding Light.

In 1978, Grant earned another Tony nomination for her contribution to the score of the Studs Terkel musical Working. She was the composer/lyricist for J.E. Franklin's Prodigal Sister, wrote a musical based on the life of George Washington Carver called Don't Underestimate a Nut, and provided English translations for 20 Jacques Brel songs in Jacques Brel Blues.

In the late 90s, Grant and Lizan Mitchell starred as the centenarian Delaney sisters in an extensive national tour of Having Our Say, for which they jointly won Helen Hayes Awards.

Grant was the 2012 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Dramatists Guild of America.