Before Lennon & McCartney: There was Rodgers & Hart & Hammerstein
There really have only been a handful of truly famous and talented songwriting teams in the 20th Century. They are Rodgers and Hart (1919-43), Rodgers and Hammerstein (1943-65), and Lennon and McCartney (1958-69).
Their music could not have been more different, yet, they worked together on 28 stage musicals and more than 500 songs from 1919 until Hart's death in 1943. Hart was a very short man at 5 ft., he was also homosexual, which haunted him forcing him to seek refuge in alcoholism until it had won out. Most of Rodgers and Hart (Rodgers wrote the music, Hart the lyrics) fame came from 1925 through the early 1940's. Their song, Manhatten, was a mega hit, in 1925, and you probably have heard it somewhere today. The team was an odd couple, running hot and cold about liking one another, and together they did produce famous musicals such as, Babes in Arms (1937) and Pal Joey (1940). Their most famous song remains, Blue Moon, which was #1 when Sinatra did in the 40's, when Elvis did it in the 50's, and when the Marcels did in in 1961. One still hears it. Blue Moon was written in 1934. Of course, unless one is in drama or stage musicals today, there is no way to know they wrote a song you hear in department stores, in elevators etc.
In 1942, Hart was going down deep into alcohol and that is when Rodgers contacted Hammerstein about getting together for a stage musical. That musical is the iconic, legendary, Oklahoma! (recently done in China). It opened in 1943 as, Away We Go, and after a few performances, a theme song called Oklahoma was completed and that became the title. It remained on Broadway until 1948, completing 2200 performances. In 1955, it was a movie and in 1956, #1 soundtrack with so many songs that are familiar.
The Rodgers and Hammerstein team produced many iconic stage and film musicals that are now legendary: State Fair, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, Cinderella, Flower Drum Song, and their last, and equally legendary, the Sound of Music. All of these mega stage hits on Broadway became smash hit movies. All of this in a space of 15 years. Naturally, their plays and music is replicated at all levels from high school to college. There have been many remakes of them as well. Rodgers died in 1979, Hammerstein in 1960.
When the Beatles came out and most of the material was a Lennon and McCartney composition, there were many comparisons to the two previous legendary songwriting teams, like, "L&M are the new Rodgers & Hart, or Rodgers & Hammerstein" for rock music.Some reviewers called them the "Beethoven for rock and roll". As L&M continued from 1963-69, like the previous teams for their time, L&M did so for rock music, refining it until it was "art". I have no doubt that all three songwriting teams' compositions will be heard for another hundred years.
They all are icons and legendary.