The Yip Harburg Foundation’s Rainbow Troupe presented a concert of songs with lyrics by Yip at Theater for the New City’s Annual Hallowe’en Costume Ball on Oct. 31, 2015. Ben Harburg, Holly Rae Phillips, Eric Poindexter and Reanna Armellino performed, with David Gaines as Musical Director and Deena R. Harburg as Conceiver and Producer.
Everyone knows the songs from The Wizard of Oz; in fact, Over the Rainbow is often cited as the greatest movie hit of all time. Few, however, know the names of the men who wrote Rainbow and the rest of the classic Oz score.
The remedy for their anonymity now is in the hands of Aaron Harburg — great-grandson of The Wizard of Oz lyricist E.Y. “Yip” Harburg — who has begun production on The Sound of Oz.
The 2009 revival of Finian’s Rainbow brought Cheyenne Jackson, Jim Norton, Christopher Fitzgerald, and Kate Baldwin to the St. James Theatre to revisit Yip’s still timely lyrics and Burton Lane’s glorious score that raise issues such as racial harmony, social equality, and living beyond one’s means.
“Finian’s Rainbow overflows with songs that are pure heaven, propelled by Yip Harburg’s wit and Burton Lane’s timeless sense of melody. Scrumptious!” – Elizabeth Vincentelli, The New York Post (2009)
“Infectious song and exuberant dancing are on abundant display in this thoroughly winning, joyous production.” – Charles Isherwood, The New York Times (2009)
Radio Riot (1930). To this cartoon Yip contributed “The Bed Time Story,” which occurs at about one minute before the end. It is a satire of spooky Brothers Grimm fairy tales, spoken by an animated radio to a group of terrified mice. Not commercially available, but viewable on You Tube.
Roadhouse Nights (1930). Helen Morgan sings the Harburg-Gorney composition “It Can’t Go on Like This.” Jimmy Durante and ensemble also sing a couple of non-Harburg songs.
Prisoners Song (1930). A Fleischer Brothers animation in which prisoners recite Yip’s verse “Down in Dear Sing Sing.” Available from private collectors only.
A Million Me’s (1930). The Yip Harburg-Jay Gorney song “What Wouldn’t I Do for That Man?” got a lot of mileage. Lee Morse opens and closes this Paramount short with fragments of the song and sings it all the way through starting at around 6min 35sec. Not commercially available, but viewable on You Tube.
The Sap from Syracuse (1930). Jack Oakie and Ginger Rogers sing “How I Wish I Could Sing a Love Song” (music by Johnny Green), the sole song in this light comedy. Some sources list two other Harburg songs (“Aw, What’s the Use?” with Johnny Green and “Capitalize That Thing Called ‘It'” with Green and Vernon Duke) in association with this film, but neither is in the release print. Not commercially available.
Queen High (1930). Two Harburg lyrics were interpolated into this adaptation of a stage play: “I Love a Girl in My Own Peculiar Way” (composer, Henry Souvaine; performed by Charles Ruggles) and “Brother, Just Laugh It Off” (composers, Arthur Schwartz, Ralph Rainger; performed at various points by Ginger Rogers and others; the music also serves as general underscoring). Not commercially available.
Song Service (1930). At about five minutes into this Paramount short subject, Lee Morse sings the very rare “Just Another Dream Gone Wrong” by Yip and Peter DeRose. It is not commercially available, but viewable on You Tube.