Sunday, February 15, 2015

Happy Birthday, Harold Arlen (2015)

Judy Garland as Dorothy from  The Wizard of Oz singing Over the Rainbow.
Wikimedia Commons
When the National Endowment for the Arts and the Recording Industry Association of America made a list of the greatest songs of the 20th century, the tune Over the Rainbow came in at the very top. It was written in 1939 for the movie The Wizard of Oz, with words by Yip Harburg and music by Harold Arlen.
The idea was to write a song that would make Judy Garland's character Dorothy come alive; a song that would let us feel what she was feeling and dream what she was dreaming.
As commentator Rob Kapilow says, the composer and lyricist "succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams." 
Kapilow, says that a lot of the song's success lies in its emotional landscape, derived from just two deceptively simple notes that travel from Kansas to Oz.
(Source NPR)
Today is Harold Arlen's Birthday and I celebrate his body of "worth".
An American songwriting legend and son of a cantor, Harold Arlen was fascinated early in his life with the sound of ragtime.
Ragtime (alternatively spelled rag-time or rag time) is a musical genre that enjoyed its peak popularity between 1895 and 1918.
Its main characteristic trait is its syncopated, or "ragged," rhythm.
In addition to writing the entire score to the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz, Arlen wrote some of the greatest hits from the 30's and 40's, including .
Songs such as Over the Rainbow, Get Happy, It's Only a Paper Moon, I've Got the World on a String, and Last Night When We Were Young are just some of the standards that live on today and have distinguished Harold Arlen as one of the Great American Composers of the 20th Century.
 After arranging for the Buffalodians, Arlen moved to New York. His jobs included arranging for Fletcher Henderson and serving as a rehearsal pianist for radio and theater. A vamp he devised while practicing was later turned into the song "Get Happy," with lyrics from Ted Koehler.
Arlen and Koehler wrote eight revues for the Cotton Club, one of which included the anthem Stormy Weather, first performed by Ethel Waters. Though he moved to Hollywood in the '30s, Arlen kept penning songs for Broadway, working with other lyricists like Dorothy Fields, Leo Robin, Johnny Mercer, Yip Harburg, and Ira Gershwin as well as Koehler. (Source Harold Arlen Website)

For Ellen LaPenna!

This Bell Telephone Hour is a ton of fun.
And here's a clip with Dinah and Duke Ellington.

There's also a great '73 TV special called Get Happy hosted by Jack Lemmon with Mama Cass and Diahann Carroll.(Thank you, Jeff McCaulley for your contributions to this blog)
Diahann Carroll Sings Harold Arlen Songs (1957)

I reached out to a few friends for their thoughts on Harold Arlen. Here are a few:

From Quinn Lemley

There are a few defining moments as a kid, that made me WANT and HAVE to sing!  Many of those moments were listening to the great songs of Harold Arlen.
As a kid growing up in Columbus, Indiana, I thrived on classic movies.
Eileen Farrell
One of my favorites was A STAR IS BORN with
Judy Garland.  I'll never forget the long shot creeping in as she was alone with her "boys" singing "The Man That Got Away"
and the backstage shots singing "Gotta Have Me Go With You".  When I saw those numbers and heard those iconic Arlen songs,
I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up!

I used to play Lena Horne constantly on the record player until the records were scratched.  I'd dress up and sing Stormy Weather and Ill Wind -
trying to be as torchy and sultry as Miss Horne, again Harold Arlen. 
Eileen Farrell, the great opera singer turned standards had me with her downbeat
with her great arrangements of I've Got A Right To Sing The Blues and Blues in the Night, her soprano soared, I wanted my orchestrations to be that exhilarating and powerful.
Hard Hitting!
Being a singer it all starts with a GREAT song.  The cool factor of tunes like Down With Love and One For My Baby had me from the first hook.  I'd even act out Sinatra with my fedora.

It is composers like Harold Arlen that have given so many of us singers the wonderful canvas to express ourselves with these timeless universal songs that have touched us all. Happy Birthday Harold! Thank you for your gifts to the world!

xoxo QuinnLemley

Richard, our cd, Burlesque To Broadway just went digital.  Can you help me spread the word?
We will be on iTunes and Amazon in a week or so

From Carolyn Quinn

Author of Mama Rose’s Turn: The True Story of America’s Most Notorious Stage Mother
I would have to say that, where Arlen's songs are concerned, I have two favorites - a tie:
"Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive," which is a song that can immediately invoke the American home front spirit of the 1940's, and "Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead," which, by the way, certainly accentuates the positive!  Best of all, his songs hold up.  They're as relevant today as if they'd been written last week.

From Helene Feldman 

Us Aquarians are a talented bunch! Hyman Arluck is no acceptation to the rule. His music is legendary and will live on indefinitely.
I played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz at the age of 12 in a summer camp production. I grew up listening to my mother sing many of his songs.
Last evening I had the privilege of being very close to Jessye Norman while she sang "Stormy Weather" and "Hooray for Love" !
His music will live on for an endless eternity.....

 From Maria Ottavia 
My favorite memory was, of course , The Wizard of Oz.  I was six or seven years old and I secretly sang  Over the Rainbow along with Judy Garland as she appeared on the big movie screen at the Lane Movie Theatre, Staten Island , NY. 1969

I remember a little girls pang and the want to be Dorothy , skipping on the Yellow Brick Road. I fell in love with the Cowardly Lion and lived his song. King of the Forest. I still have the little girl pang in my heart and wish I could go back in time and relive the experience. 

From John Meyer
It's Harold Arlen's birthday. Let me tell a story:
I was fortunate enough to meet him when I participated in a Lincoln Center tribute to him...
but years before this I saw him in an elevator, and gushed over him as a teen-age idolater.

You see, Marlene Dietrich lived in the same apt. building as we did -and I was astonished one day
to find myself sharing the elevator with him. As a budding songwriter, I was nearly overwhelmed.
It was shortly after Saratoga had opened, and I made some comment about the show
and how much I admired his music in general and finally stammered to a halt.
"Mm, well, thank you for the kind words," he said, and exited as quickly as he could
(he was painfully shy, was embarrassed at the attention).
The elevator operator, Joe, looked at me in wonder. "My goodness," he said to me,
"you made such a fuss over that fellow -who is he?"
"Joe," I said, "that's the guy who wrote Stormy Weather, That Old Black Magic, Over the Rainbow! He's a giant!"
Joe shrugged. "Yeah?" he said. "You sure wouldn't know it to look at him."

From Annie Hughes 

My first Equity job was way back in 1978.  It was a revue called Get Happy: The Music Of Harold Arlen (with Doug Voet and Beverly Cosham).  We did a benefit performance in NYC and Mr. Arlen was in attendance. 
After the show we got to meet him.He shook my hand and said, "You sang The Morning After just the way I always heard it in my mind.  Thank you."  
One of the greatest moments of my life.
(Ad  from the Free Lance Star, June 9, 1978)

Groucho Marx radio recording of Lydia with WWII Reference visual by George Bettinger

Thank to ALL mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!
With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating the first Fifty Years of Hello, Dolly!


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    


Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

Check out This Site Celebrating The Wizard of Oz

Please help me celebrate on the 25th!
Happy Sunday, Yvette! Hope you are well. I would be thrilled for you to attend this! Please bring your Facebook friends along for the celebration… Richard Skipper Celebrates Lee Roy Reams in an ON STAGE INTERVIEW to benefit The Spiral Theatre Studio at 300 West 43rd Street, 6th Floor New York, NY 10036 at 8PM! On February 25th. 
The evening with Lee Roy Reams will begin with a Wine and Cheese mixer at 7:00 PM (for VIP Patrons), and interview of Lee Roy Reams at 8 PM promptly. 845-365-0720 $30.00/ $40 VIP Tickets (Includes Cocktail reception with Lee Roy!) RESERVATIONS A MUST! Please reserve today!! SEATING IS LIMITED! You never know who you might meet!

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