|Birth name||Isidore Hochberg|
|Also known as||E.Y. Harburg, Yipsel Harburg|
|Born||April 8, 1896|
|Origin||New York City, New York, U.S.A.|
|Died||March 4, 1981 (aged 84)|
|Associated acts||Harold Arlen, Vernon Duke, Jerome Kern, Jule Styne, Burton Lane|
Edgar Yipsel Harburg (April 8, 1896 – March 4, 1981), known as E.Y. Harburg or Yip Harburg, was an American popular song lyricist who worked with many well-known composers. He 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, the youngest of four surviving children (out of ten), was born Isidore Hochberg on the Lower East Side of New York City on April 8, 1896. His parents, Lewis Hochberg and Mary Ricing,  were faithful, Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Jews who had immigrated from Russia. Harburg's nickname "Yipsel" (often shortened to "Yip") came about as "Yipsel" is how people pronounced "YPSL" -- the acronym for the Young People's Socialist League of which he was a member. Some have incorrectly believed that "Yipsel" is a Yiddish word meaning "squirrel." It is not. The most common Yiddish words for "squirrel" are either "vevyarka" (of Polish origin) or "byelka" (of Russian origin), neither of which remotely resemble "Yipsel." In short, "Yipsel" does not mean "squirrel" or anything else in Yiddish.
Later, he adopted the name Edgar Harburg. He was best known as Edgar "Yip" Harburg. He attended Townsend Harris High School, where he and Ira Gershwin, who met over a shared fondness for Gilbert and Sullivan, worked on the school paper and became life-long friends. They went on to attend City College (later part of the City University of New York) together.
After graduating from university, Harburg spent three years in Uruguay to avoid involvement in World War I, which he opposed as a committed socialist. There he worked as a factory supervisor. After the war he returned to New York, married and had two children and started writing light verse for local newspapers. He became co-owner of Consolidated Electrical Appliance Company. The company went bankrupt following the crash of 1929, leaving Harburg "anywhere from $50,000 - $70,000 in debt," which he insisted on paying back over the course of the next few decades. At this point, Ira Gershwin and Yip Harburg agreed that Yip should start writing song lyrics.
Gershwin introduced Harburg to Jay Gorney, who collaborated with him on songs for an Earl Carroll Broadway review (Earl Carroll's Sketchbook): the show was successful and Harburg was engaged as lyricist for a series of successful revues, including Americana in 1932, for which he wrote the lyrics of Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? to the tune of a lullaby Gorney had learned as a child in Russia. This song swept the nation, becoming an anthem of the Great Depression.
Harburg and Gorney were offered a contract with Paramount: in Hollywood, Harburg worked with composers Harold Arlen, Vernon Duke, Jerome Kern, Jule Styne, and Burton Lane, and wrote the lyrics for The Wizard of Oz for which he won the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song for Over the Rainbow.
|“||So anyhow, Yip also wrote all the dialogue in that time and the setup to the songs and he also wrote the part where they give out the heart, the brains and the nerve, because he was the final script editor. And he — there was eleven screenwriters on that — and he pulled the whole thing together, wrote his own lines and gave the thing a coherence and unity which made it a work of art. But he doesn’t get credit for that. He gets lyrics by E. Y. Harburg, you see. But nevertheless, he put his influence on the thing.||”|
Working in Hollywood did not stop Harburg's career on Broadway. In the 40s he wrote a series of book musicals with social messages, including the very successful Bloomer Girl (1944) (about temperance and women's rights activist Amelia Bloomer) and his most famous Broadway show, Finian's Rainbow (1947) (perhaps the first Broadway musical with a racially integrated chorus line, featuring Harburg's "When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich"). It has had four major revivals (1955, 1960 and 1967, 2009), and was also made into a film starring Fred Astaire and Petula Clark, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, in 1968. In 2004 the Irish Repertory Theatre staged a well-received Off-Broadway production. New York's City Center Encores! series performed a critically acclaimed concert version of the piece in March 2009. Directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, it starred Tony Award-winner Jim Norton and Kate Baldwin as Finian and Sharon, with Cheyenne Jackson as Woody and Jeremy Bobb as Og, the leprechaun. A Broadway revival began on October 29 at the St. James Theatre with most of the Encores! cast. Newly added to the Broadway cast are Christopher Fitzgerald as Og and Chuck Cooper as Billboard; Jim Norton, Kate Baldwin and Cheyenne Jackson all reprise their roles. It closed on January 17, 2010.
True to his strongly leftist views, Harburg supported the 1948 presidential campaign of Henry Wallace, and wrote the lyrics of the campaign song "Everyone Likes Wallace, Friendly Henry Wallace." From about 1951 to 1962, Yip Harburg was a victim of the Hollywood blacklist when movie studio bosses blacklisted industry people for suspected involvement or sympathy with the American Communist Party. No longer able to work in Hollywood, he nevertheless continued to write musicals for Broadway, among which was Jamaica, which featured Lena Horne.
In 1940 Harburg won an Oscar, shared with Harold Arlen, for Best Music, Original Song for "The Wizard of Oz", (1939). In addition, he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Music, Original Song, along with Arlen, for "Cabin in the Sky", (1943) and Best Music, Original Song for "Can't Help Singing", shared with Jerome Kern in (1944).
Harburg was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972.
In April 2005, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp recognizing his accomplishments. The stamp is drawn from a portrait taken by photographer Barbara Bordnick in 1978 along with a rainbow and lyric from Over the Rainbow. The first day ceremony was held at the 92nd Street Y in New York.
Post-retirement or posthumous credits:
Edgar Yipsel Harburg (8 April 1896 – 4 March 1981), born Isidore Hochberg and known primarily as E. Y. Harburg or Yip Harburg, was an American lyricist who worked with many well-known composers. He is most famous for his lyrics for The Wizard of Oz (1939), including those of "Over the Rainbow".
It's a Barnum and Bailey world
Just as phony as it can be
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me.
Look, look, look to the rainbow
Follow it over the hill and stream
Look, look, look to the rainbow
Follow the fellow who follows a dream.