25 April 2011

Harburg and Arlen

American Songwriter just posted a profile of E. Y. “Yip” Harburg, lyricist and uncredited collaborator on the screenplay of the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie.

Harburg was probably the most politically minded American songwriter to achieve popular success. And he came to those beliefs early:
After attending City College, Harburg chose to work in a Uruguay factory in 1917, which provided him an opportunity to make a decent wage, while avoiding being drafted against his beliefs into the First World War. Following the war, he married, fathered two children and became the co-owner of an electrical appliance company, that did well, but after seven years went bankrupt during the 1929 economic crash. After his business failure, Yip gravitated to songwriting. “I left the fantasy of business for the harsh reality of musical theatre”, he later joked.
In other Oz-musical news, Scott Thompson and Fred Barton are raising money to produce One for My Baby, “a sexy new song-and-dance book musical” built around songs by Harburg’s sometime collaborator Harold S. Arlen. Unlike some of his songwriting contemporaries, Arlen composed most of his classics for revues or Hollywood movies. He tried Broadway after World War 2, including the Tony-nominated Jamaica and the Truman Capote collaboration House of Flowers, but none of those were big hits.

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