Harold Arlen, 1939
February 15, 1905
Buffalo, New York
|Died||April 23, 1986 (aged 81)
New York City, New York
|Spouse(s)||Anya Taranda (1937-1970)|
Harold Arlen (February 15, 1905 – April 23, 1986) was an American composer of popular music. Having written over 500 songs, a number of which have become known the world over. In addition to being the composer of The Wizard of Oz, Arlen is a highly regarded contributor to the Great American Songbook. His 1938 song "Over the Rainbow” was voted the twentieth century's No. 1 song by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
Arlen was born Chaim Arlook, in Buffalo, New York, the child of a Jewish cantor. His twin brother died the next day. He learned the piano as a youth and formed a band as a young man. He achieved some local success as a pianist and singer and moved to New York City in his early 20s. He worked as an accompanist in vaudeville. At this point, he changed his name to Harold Arlen. Between 1926 and about 1934, Arlen appeared occasionally as a band vocalist on records by The Buffalodians, Red Nichols, Joe Venuti, Leo Reisman and Eddie Duchin, usually singing his own compositions.
In 1929, Arlen composed his first well-known song: "Get Happy" (with lyrics by Ted Koehler). Throughout the early and mid-1930s, Arlen and Koehler wrote shows for the Cotton Club, a popular Harlem night club, as well as for Broadway musicals and Hollywood films. Arlen and Koehler's partnership resulted in a number of hit songs, including the familiar standards "Let's Fall in Love" and "Stormy Weather." Arlen continued to perform as a pianist and vocalist with some success, most notably on records with Leo Reisman's society dance orchestra.
In the mid-1930s, Arlen married, and spent increasing time in California, writing for movie musicals. It was at this time that he began working with lyricist E.Y. "Yip" Harburg. In 1938, the team was hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to compose songs for The Wizard of Oz. The most famous of these is the song "Over the Rainbow" for which they won the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song. They also wrote "Down with Love", a song later featured in the 2003 movie Down with Love.
In the 1940s, he teamed up with lyricist Johnny Mercer, and continued to write hit songs like "Blues in the Night", "That Old Black Magic," "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive," "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home" and "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)" .
1905 Arlen born in Buffalo, New York
1920 (Age 15) He formed his first professional band, Hyman Arluck's Snappy Trio.
1921 (16) Against his parent's wishes he left home.
1923 (18) With his new band - The Southbound Shufflers, performed on the Crystal Beach lake boat "Canadiana" during the summer of 1923.
1924 (19) Performed at Lake Shore Manor during the summer of 1924.
1924 (19) Wrote his first song, collaborating with friend Hyman Cheiffetz to write "My Gal, My Pal". Copyrighting the song as "My Gal, Won't You Please Come Back to Me?" and listed lyrics by Cheiffetz and music by Harold Arluck.
1925 (20) Makes his way to New York City with the group, The Buffalodians, with Arlen playing piano.
1926 (21) Had first published song, collaborating with Dick George to compose "Minor Gaff (Blues Fantasy)" under the name Harold Arluck.
1928 (23) Chaim (Life) (or Hyman) Arluck renames himself Harold Arlen, a name that combined his parents' surnames (his mother's maiden name was Orlin).
1929 (24) Landed a singing and acting role as Cokey Joe in the musical "The Great Day"
1929 (24) Composed his first well known song - (Get Happy) under the name Harold Arlen.
1929 (24) Signed a yearlong song writing contract with the George and Arthur Piantadosi firm.
1930-1934 (25-29) Wrote music for the Cotton Club.
1933 (28) At a party, along with partner Ted Koehler, wrote the major hit song "Stormy Weather"
1933 (28) Billboard heralded Shakespeare as the most prolific playwright in history, and Arlen as the most prolific composer.
1935 (30) Went back to California after being signed by Samuel Goldwyn to write songs for the film "Strike Me Pink"
1941 (36) Wrote "Blues in the Night"
1943 (38) Wrote "My Shining Hour"
1949 (44) Collaborated with Ralph Blane to write the score for "My Blue Heaven".
1950 (45) Worked with old pal Johnny Mercer on the film "The Petty Girl", out of which came the song "Fancy Free".
1951 (46) His wife Anya was institutionalized in a sanitarium for 7 years after repeatedly threatening her husband and others with physical harm.
1952 (47) Teamed up with Dorothy Fields on the film "The Farmer Takes a Wife"
1953 (48) Harold's father, Cantor Samuel Arluck, died.
1956 (51) His mother Celia Arluck dies and Harold doesn't touch music for over a year, mourning her loss.
1961-1976 (55-71) Wrote over 50 songs and continued a successful career.
1970 (65) Arlen's wife Anya Taranda dies from a brain tumor. Arlen begins to lose interest in life, withdrawing from friends and family and becoming more reclusive.
1974 (69) Composes theme song for the ABC sitcom Paper Moon, based on a 1973 Peter Bogdanovich film of the same name. [Paper Moon was a hit song in *1933* and gave its name to the movie, not the other way around.]
LIKE A STRAW IN THE WIND
Like a straw in the wind I go whirling around Like a bird who’s just learnin’ to fly Feet are not on the ground Drift from pillar to post So helplessly What wanted the most Winds up a ghostly memory My man is gone And when your man is gone Your world just falls apart Hmm... nothing you try to do Helps you to comfort your heart Don’t yo’ heart get all the breaks Where your hopes come unpinned Trouble steps in and makes You feel like a straw in the wind