A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Howard Ashman moved to New York City in 1974 and began writing plays while working as an editor in a publishing house. His work attracted attention and he became WPA Theatre's artist director in 1977. In 1982, Ashman collaborated with composer Alan Menken on the musical "Little Shop of Horrors", one of off-Broadway's highest-grossing musicals. The team of Ashman and Menken shifted their focus to movies, creating some of the songs for The Little Mermaid (1989). One of them, "Under the Sea", won an Oscar in 1989 for best song. Ashman then wrote the lyrics for the songs in the Disney animated musical hit Beauty and the Beast (1991), and he and Menken won another Oscar for the title song. However, two days after he won an Oscar for "Under the Sea" Ashman confided in Menken that he had AIDS. Despite the terminal illness that was making him weaker every day, Ashman never stopped composing songs. He even turned out more songs for a third Disney animated musical, Aladdin (1992), before his death from AIDS on March 14, 1991, at the age of 40.
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