Yip Harburg: Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist [NOOK Book]

Overview

Known as “Broadway’s social conscience,” E. Y. Harburg (1896–1981) wrote the lyrics to the standards, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?,” “April in Paris,” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” as well as all of the songs in The Wizard of Oz, including “Over the Rainbow.” Harburg always included a strong social and political component to his work, fighting racism, poverty, and war. Interweaving close to fifty interviews (most of them previously unpublished), over forty lyrics, and a number of Harburg’s poems, Harriet Hyman...
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Yip Harburg: Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist

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Overview

Known as “Broadway’s social conscience,” E. Y. Harburg (1896–1981) wrote the lyrics to the standards, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?,” “April in Paris,” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” as well as all of the songs in The Wizard of Oz, including “Over the Rainbow.” Harburg always included a strong social and political component to his work, fighting racism, poverty, and war. Interweaving close to fifty interviews (most of them previously unpublished), over forty lyrics, and a number of Harburg’s poems, Harriet Hyman Alonso enables Harburg to talk about his life and work. He tells of his early childhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, his public school education, how the Great Depression opened the way to writing lyrics, and his work on Broadway and Hollywood, including his blacklisting during the McCarthy era. Finally, but most importantly, Harburg shares his commitment to human rights and the ways it affected his writing and his career path. Includes an appendix with Harburg’s key musicals, songs, and films.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“In this detailed, entertaining account, Alonso gives life to a courageous man and artist who risked it all for some simple human truth.” —Publishers Weekly

“The book is far more lively and less politically earnest than its title suggests. In fact, it is downright chatty, being essentially a sort of oral history Alonso crafted out of nearly 50 published and unpublished transcripts of radio and television broadcasts, speeches, roundtables, and conversations in which Harburg participated over the years.”—James M. Keller, Pasatiempo

“an excellent introduction to the artist.”—Joseph Epstein, The Wall Street Journal

“…a good portrait of that picturesque leprechaun of a fellow who followed a crock of gold past that paper moon to somewhere over the rainbow.”—Steven Suskin, Playbill

Publishers Weekly
Alonso, a City College of New York history professor, constructs the life and times of the man known as “Broadway’s social conscience,” E.Y. Harburg, who left a rich musical legacy of lovely, poetic songs packed with a solid political punch in film, radio plays, and on the Great White Way. Called “Yip” by his peers and pundits, he was born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and early on became a fan of Yiddish theater; later he worked with some of the greatest musical composers in the last century such as Ira Gershwin and Harold Arlen. Yip creatively used the Depression years of the 1930s through the postwar era of the 1950s to fuel some of his popular hits such as Bing Crosby’s “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?,” Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow,” Doris Day’s “April in Paris,” and Frank Sinatra’s “Last Night When We were Young.” Although Yip enjoyed great success on Broadway and Hollywood in their golden era, novelist Ayn Rand denounced his film song, “And Russia Is Her Name,” in 1947, which got him blacklisted during the Red Scare, but that didn’t prevent him from penning classic songs against racism, sexism, greed, and fascism. In this detailed, entertaining account, Alonso gives life to a courageous man and artist who risked it all for some simple human truth. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Alonso (history, City Coll. of New York; Robert E. Sherwood: The Playwright in Peace and War) offers a biography of E.Y. “Yip” Harburg (1896–1981), an often-neglected but important lyricist of the 1930s and 1940s. Commissioned to knit together large blocks of Harburg’s quotes for Wesleyan’s “Music: Interview” series, Alonso mines published and unpublished interviews to allow Harburg to speak for himself. The author starts with Harburg’s poverty-stricken, immigrant youth, his bootstrapped rise, and his strategic friendship with Ira Gershwin, who introduced him to the Broadway crowd. She continues with his first successes, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” “April in Paris,” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon” (all written in 1932) and the subsequent scores to Finian’s Rainbow and The Wizard of Oz, the latter including the classic “Over the Rainbow” (1939). Throughout, Alonso discusses the liberal sentiments that surfaced in Harburg’s lyrics and led to his blacklisting during the McCarthy era, which severely curtailed his output.

Verdict Though interesting, this book duplicates much of the material in the excellent Who Put the Rainbow in the Wizard of Oz? by Harold Meyerson and Harburg’s son, Ernie, and will appeal to a limited audience.—David P. Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819571243
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 12/3/2012
  • Series: Music/Interview
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 332
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

HARRIET HYMAN ALONSO teaches history at The City College of New York and is the author of the award-winning Growing Up Abolitionist: The Story of the Garrison Children and Robert E. Sherwood: The Playwright in Peace and War. For more information on YIP HARBURG, visit the website of the Yip Harburg Foundation, www.yipharburg.com.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
A Note to the Reader
What’s in a Name?
Early Years
Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?
A Pause for Jay Gorney
Yip’s Path to Show Business Success
A Pause for Vernon Duke
From Hollywood to Oz and Back
A Pause for Harold Arlen
Human Rights Activism Takes Center Stage
A Pause for Agnes de Mille
Yip’s Case Study of Finian’s Rainbow
A Pause for Burton Lane
Anger, Frustration, and Persistence During the McCarthy Years
A Pause for Friendship During Hard Times
The New Old Yip
Acknowledgements
Appendix: Musicals, Films, and Songs
Notes
Bibliography
Lyric Credits
Index
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 4, 2013

    Highly recommended

    Based on interviews conducted over many years with Yip Harburg, Harriet Alonso has created an eminently readable, insightful, and entertaining portrait of this remarkable, many-facted man. She traces the history and development of this child of poor immigrant parents on New York's Lower East Side who grew up to work with almost every major composer of the American musical in its golden age. In her characteristically clear style she has used the interview material and many well- and lesser-known Harburg lyrics to leave the reader with the feeling that he or she has actually met and spent time with him, appreciating his great talent, wisdom, humor, and humanity. This is must reading for anyone interested in the American cultural, musical, and political scene of the mid twentieth century and beyond.

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