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Yip Harburg: Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist Hardcover – Dec 3 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Wesleyan; 36.18 edition (Dec 3 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0819571288
  • ISBN-13: 978-0819571281
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.7 x 23.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 635 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,415,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“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In fact, it is downright chatty, being essentially a sort of oral history Alonso crafted out of nearly 50 published and unpublished transcripts of radio and television broadcasts, speeches, roundtables, and conversations in which Harburg participated over the years.”—James M. Keller,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


“Yip Harburg was a brilliant lyricist, committed humanitarian, and an engaging raconteur. Harriet Alonso has done a superb job of weaving Harburg’s own words and memories into a compelling biography of one of the giants of the Great American Songbook.” (Walter Frisch, professor of music, Columbia University)

“At concerts I often used to talk about Yip, how he and Harold Arlen wrote ‘Over the Rainbow’ and then I’d get the whole audience to sing it together.” (Pete Seeger)

“Harriet Alonso’s valuable book permits Yip Harburg—a passionate, politically committed, and gifted lyricist and storyteller—to tell his own story. His words bring back to life the golden age of songwriting and liberal activism in 20th century America.” (Burton Peretti, author of Nightclub City)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xb3930600) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb438098c) out of 5 stars I great concept makes a great book April 7 2013
By Ken B. - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ms. Alonso's concept was to let Harburg's words speak for themselves. My only caveat is that Harburg often changed his stories on whim and that might have been nice. But overall it's an excellent book, a fun read, and an important addition to musical theatre literature. Oh, one other complaint -- what a terrible title. It makes the book sound much dryer than it actually is.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb4380bd8) out of 5 stars A Grandish Book Jan. 19 2013
By Lee Gelber - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been a Yip Harburg fan for many years. The wit, intelligence and emotional appeal of his lyrics have haunted me in a most positive way. Professor Alonso wrote a splendid biography incorporating interviews with the late Mr. Harburg and included some of his finest and most memorable lyrics. I immediately sent Professor Alonso a letter of appreciation
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb4380b9c) out of 5 stars A great interweaving of profile and lyric Aug. 21 2013
By Joanne E. Sprott - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Before reading this book, I just knew that I loved the Wizard of Oz and its songs, not knowing, really, who had written them (maybe a vague reference to Harold Arlen, the composer, in my head, but lyricists often go less recognized).
Through Alonso's book, I got a great portrait of the wordsmith who came up with the lyrics to that movie's songs, among many others ("Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?", "It's Only a Paper Moon" and many more), and the social critique hidden in many of his songs. Yip Harburg was an avid human rights champion and had to weather blacklisting during the McCarthy era.
As I was building the index for this book (I get paid to index, but not to review), I really got to enjoy the rhythm of Harburg's interviewed voice with the lyrics to his songs. Alonso made these two elements flow nicely together, which I'm sure would have made Yip smile. :) She could have stuck to a straight narrative on Harburg's life and creative work, but I found him much more accessible in this interview format, mainly because he was just as clever and insightful in conversation as he was lyrically.
I remain proud to have made some small contribution to the story of the guy who wrote the lyrics to "Over the Rainbow," an iconic song and mythic cinematic story from my childhood.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb72864a8) out of 5 stars A book.. and a man.. to be remembered April 11 2013
By Davis Gloff - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Yip Harburg was a lyricist, poet and social activist, who always found a way to inject his feeling for the common person into his work. Born in 1896, he had a successful electrical supply business, but it was destroyed by the depression, and that was when he called an old school chum of his and told him that he was going to turn his hobby of writing light verse into a profession of writing lyrics for songs. The friend's response was "About time." The friend was Ira Gershwin, and they remained friends all life long.

This book speaks of the life of Harburg and his work in a personal and appealing way. The reader gets to feel present as the songs were conceived and written. A good example is the song that made Harburg famous, "Brother Can You spare A Dime" We read how the song's title was inspired by an actual hobo, and how it was almost thrown out of the show by the Schubert brothers who had not actually spoken to each other in years..
I recommend this book highly.
HASH(0xb4380f2c) out of 5 stars Five Stars Dec 11 2015
By Bruce Griffin - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
quick delivery and exactly as I expected.