Saturday, August 17, 2013

Who Put the Rainbow in "The Wizard of Oz"?: Yip Harburg, Lyricist

1993, 1996 University of Michigan Press edition
Harold Meyerson and Ernie Harburg
Who Put the Rainbow in The Wizard of Oz?: Yip Harburg, Lyricist
Bought new for unknown
Hardcover in good condition

Harburg's son co-wrote this book that is more music criticism than biography.  (A second marriage for Yip is referred to just in passing.)  Nonetheless, the personality of the lyricist for The Wizard of Oz (among many other musicals, on stage and screen) clearly comes across in its all its contradictions and imperfections.  Harburg was both cynical and idealistic, sympathetic to feminism while stuck in old beliefs about women.  (He was born in 1896, died in 1981.)  He was also a socialist who was never a communist (yet blacklisted in an inconsistent fashion), and a pacifist who supported the U.S. involvement in WW II.

The two co-authors analyze Harburg's writing, including as librettist for some musicals, and his contributions to the script for Wizard (also discussed in Aljean Harmetz's 1977 book), such as the title character's speech while giving out the diploma, etc.  Harburg's music-- "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?", "April in Paris," "Paper Moon," "Down with Love," "Lydia the Tattooed Lady," etc.-- remains better known than he is.  But Ernie (himself now in his 80s) is still working to keep his father's memory alive, as a quick Google search shows.

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