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Who Put the Rainbow in the Wizard of Oz?: Yip Harburg, Lyricist [Paperback]

Yip Harburg , Harold Meyerson , Ernie Harburg


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Book Description

Aug. 1 1995
."" . . required reading for anyone interested in the great American songs.""-New York Times Book ReviewMany of us can sing along with Dorothy when she imagines a place "Over the Rainbow." And we all remember the Depression-era classic "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" But very few can name the man who put the words to these celebrated hallmarks of American music- Yip Harburg. Five hundred songs spanning a fifty-year career bear witness to the brilliance of this until-now obscure figure.Plunge into this scrupulously documented volume and discover how Harburg, once a poet of light verse, played a major role in the transformation of the Broadway revue into the sophisticated musical of the 1940s and 1950s. With extensive and exclusive interviews and lyrical analysis, the authors capture Harburg's wit, distinctive voice, and creative and collaborative methods.Inquiry into Harburg's Jewish, New York City roots, apprenticeship in his craft, and involvement in the radical politics of the 1930s- he was blacklisted in the 1950s- puts into context the seemingly irreconcilable skepticism and optimism that contoured this lyrical genius's life and work.Harold Meyerson is Executive Editor and chief political columnist, "L.A. Weekly," and is on the editorial board of "Dissent." Ernie Harburg is a social psychologist and epidemiologist at the University of Michigan, coauthor (with Bernard Rosenberg) of "The Broadway Musical: Collaboration in Commerce and Art," and Yip Harburg's son.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 454 pages
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press (Aug. 1 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0472083120
  • ISBN-13: 978-0472083121
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 771 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,223,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Library Journal

From his Russian-Jewish, New York City roots through his prolific working years as lyricist for such successes as the film The Wizard of Oz and Broadway's Bloomer Girl and Finian's Rainbow, E. Y. ("Yip") Harburg seemed ready for anything but the McCarthyism that blacklisted him in the 1950s for his associations with certain groups and his avowal of "democratic socialist" ideals. Illustrated with lyrics from his entire output, this admiring title adds to the literature on the history of the Broadway musical the perspective of an accomplished wordsmith who collaborated with major composers like Harold Arlen, Burton Lane, Vernon Duke, and Jerome Kern but whose own name has been less well remembered. A worthwhile addition for large musical theater collections.
- Bonnie Jo Dopp, formerly with Dist. of Columbia P.L.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

"Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?," "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" and "April in Paris" are some of the most beloved songs of the American musical theater. Their lyricist, Yip Harburg, was, like so many of his peers, the son of Jewish immigrants, Russian in his case, who settled on the lower-east side of Manhattan. Inspired by the theater at an early age, he did not begin his career until he was in his thirties and had spent a stint managing the family business--an experience he detested. One of the songsmiths who changed the American musical from the revue format into a so-called book show in which song and dance became media for telling a dramatic story, Harburg's most famous collaborators were Harold Arlen, his partner in 111 efforts including The Wizard of Oz, and Barton Lane, with whom his most famous product was Finian's Rainbow. This biography benefits from the collaboration of Harburg's son Ernie; plenty of pictures; appendixes of Harburg's stage, film, and broadcast credits; a list of his song titles; and lots of quoted lyrics. Edward Lighthart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of a creative mind and passionate soul March 29 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Yip Harburg, the prodigiously talented lyricist best known for "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime" and "Over the Rainbow", is the subject of this splendid biography. Harburg's gifts were uniquely his, but this book shows us how his (financially, but not spiritually) impoverished father cultivated Harburg's talents by taking him regularly to the Yiddish theater on the Lower East Side and reading funny stories to him in the evening. Harburg's insights into the elements of creative writing-- a sense of passion, an eye for paradox, an intelligent plan, e.t.c.-- are recounted in loving detail. Whether you read this book for insight into this wonderful man's heart, or his craft, you will be richly rewarded.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of a creative mind and passionate soul April 29 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Yip Harburg, the prodigiously talented lyricist best known for "Brother Can You Spare a Dime," and "Over the Rainbow", is the subject of this splendid biography. Harburg's gifts were uniquely his, but this book shows us how his (financially but not spiritually) impoverished father cultivate Harburg's talents by taking him regularly to the Yiddish theater on the Lower East Side and reading funny stories to him in the evening. Harburg's insights into the elements of creative writing -- a sense of passion, an eye for paradox, an intelligent plan, etc-- are recounted in loving detail. Whether you read this book for insight into this wonderful man's heart, or his craft, you will be richly rewarded.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for Wizard of Oz fanatics Sept. 29 2011
By Charles A Troy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book was a revelation -- an inside look as to how this movie classic got written that is not covered nearly as well in the profuse printed and video materials on the subject. It tells the surprising story of how Yip Harburg, a relatively little-known lyricist in Hollywood at the time, was picked for this plum assignment along with Harold Arlen. And then how he did far more than write the lyrics -- he made a critical casting suggestion, and made the script a success by pulling all the diverse versions of the screenplay into a coherent whole. In other words, he was critical to the success of this all-time favorite film. The rest of the book, co-authored by Harburg's son, covers the rest of Harburg's life and work, which had not even been addressed before -- or since -- in all the myriad of books on the great musicals and their creators.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A long time coming Oct. 24 2010
By Steven Schwartz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I worry that the classic American popular song - those songs written from roughly 1910 to 1950 by such lights as Gershwin, Kern, Berlin, Rodgers, and Arlen - will disappear from mass neglect. It's almost gone from radio and TV - drowned out by rock, R & B, techno, hip-hop, etc. I'm amazed a publisher took a chance on this book, and more power to him. One of the great things about these songs was that they *were* popular. They became a part of people's emotional and intellectual DNA, and we lose a large, important part of ourselves as Americans if we forget them.

Yip Harburg - lyricist for Finian's Rainbow, Bloomer Girl, and Wizard of Oz, as well as a metric ton of standards in the American songbook - ranks with such colleagues as Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, and Lorenz Hart. Unlike most of his rivals, he had mastered the old French "trick" verse forms like villanelle, triolet, and rondeau. His lyrics tend to read well, even without their tunes.

Contrary to popular opinion, however, he did not introduce sophisticated wit into the American lyric. That tradition went back to P. G. Wodehouse's contributions to Kern's Princess shows, at least. What he did bring in was a concern for social issues (his first big hit was "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime"), a unique fancy, and a gallon of knockabout humor. He mastered the comic song, as "Lydia, the Tatood Lady" for Groucho Marx amply shows. He also is probably the classic pop lyricist who pushed metaphor and simile to their limit while keeping the breezy American idiom and without crossing over to the deadeningly Arty.

Meyerson and Harburg (Yip's son) do a great job of laying out the roots of the political and cultural movements Yip came from. They do a bang-up job analyzing lyrics without getting too technical. They also include an addendum, written by Yip, on "cosmic mysteries." Harburg came to a hard, realistic atheism early and stuck with it, but he was a dreamer by temperament and by conviction. Consequently, there's an interesting tension throughout the chapter that lifts it above the trite and New Age-y. It's also funny as hell.

The only reason I don't give this book 5 stars is because I can't bring myself to mention it in the same breath as Anna Karenina. However, it's still a wonderful book on one of our best song poets.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Songwriter's story Oct. 12 2010
By Barbi Lee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the life of this amazing lyricist. There is so much more to songwriting than just rhyming June and moon. This man was a true craftsman... a good read.

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