From his early (to late 60s) days as an A & R man with EMI (a job he did briefly as a welcome break from his earlier training as a solicitor – which he'd detested), Sir Tim Rice always had a wide-ranging interest in popular and rock music.

As he told me in the margins of the recent Henley Literary Festival, some of his early heroes were Buddy Holly, Cliff Richard and The Shadows, The Everly Brothers, Lonnie Donegan and Joe Brown. Though Sir Tim's dream back then was to be a rock star, not a lyric writer - the British Elvis Presley. He did perform briefly with a band but success eluded them. A chance meeting with Andrew Lloyd-Webber changed everything when Sir Tim started writing lyrics for what would become iconic smash hit musicals - like 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat', 'Jesus Christ Superstar', 'Evita' and, later, without Andrew, 'Chess', 'The Lion King', 'Aladdin' and many more.

What is Sir Tim's favourite from those hugely successful musicals? “'Evita' was the best one,” he responds without hesitation. "And 'She is a Diamond' is my proudest achievement as a still wipes me out whenever I hear it. There are bits of the other musicals I always enjoy hearing, too, but 'Evita' is a big favourite, partly because everyone told us it could never be a success. It is always fun to prove people wrong!”

Does Sir Tim enjoy other people's musicals, too? And what about the current craze for biopic or jukebox-style musicals? “I love many musicals and some of the classic American writers were just amazing. Some biopic musicals can be excellent. 'Buddy' was a good one back in the late 80s/early 90s and 'Mamma Mia' is brilliant. 'The Jersey Boys' is good, too. The song I would most have loved to have written isn't a big number from a musical, though. It is 'Love Potion Number 9' – by Lieber and Stoller which was a minor US hit in the late 1950s for The Clovers, an American group, and then a massive hit for The Searchers in 1964/5 both here and in America. I love that song!”

Has Sir Tim found his recent work with Disney on various films and shows as fulfilling as the early days? “Well, it is different. As you age, you do gain experience, though perhaps, ingenuity peaks earlier. Maybe the optimum time when energy and creativity combine with the right amount of experience comes for most of us in our late thirties or early forties - and at almost 75 , I am well beyond that point now! But I still love what I do and working with Disney on a range of major projects has been wonderful!"

“People often ask about whether the music or the words count most in a song. But, for me, it is the strength of the story behind the song that really matters and Disney always get that right! I have enjoyed working with a range of people, too. Obviously, working with Andrew in the early days was great - but so, too, was working with Elton John on 'The Lion King'. It has just been a dream to be able to do that!”

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