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 Interweaving close to fifty interviews (most of them previously unpublished), over forty lyrics, and a number of Harburg's poems, Harriet Hyman Alonso enables Harburg to talk about his life and work.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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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.Review:
“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In fact, it is downright chatty, being essentially a sort of oral history Alonso crafted out of nearly 50 published and unpublished transcripts of radio and television broadcasts, speeches, roundtables, and conversations in which Harburg participated over the years.”—James M. Keller,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
“Tunesmith E.Y. Harburg (1896–1981) composed the lyrics for such hits as “April in Paris” and the Depression-era classic “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” If he had written only one song, however, he’d be in the pantheon—that ditty, heard in a 1939 movie, was “Over the Rainbow,” from The Wizard of Oz. Yip Harburg: Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist reminds us of his charms.”—Dick Donahue, Publishers Weekly
“In Yip Harburg: Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist, historian Harriet Hyman Alonso relates the story of Isidore Hochberg, who was born in New York, of Russian-Jewish origin, and acquired the nickname ‘Yip’ in his youth. ... As Harburg told a New York audience in 1971, battling for civil rights came naturally to him: ‘The Jews have known this for a long time. The Jews were more aware of it than any other tribe in the world because they were the first ones to suffer fascism under Pharaoh.... The first freedom rider was Moses who came along and the whole Passover Seder and ceremony is devoted entirely to freedom, to a fight for freedom, to how you get out of slavery, so that the Jews being a minority have always known that if there’s any other minority being enslaved anywhere in the world that it’s their fight.’”—Benjamin Ivry, The Forward
“There are several excellent books about Harburg. I’d suggest Yip Harburg: Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist. 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.”—Denise Oliver Velez, Daily Kos
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