Published by University of Michigan Press
Paperback, 472 pages
Who Put the Rainbow in the Wizard of Oz?
Yip Harburg, Lyricist
Many of us can sing along with Dorothy when she imagines a place "Over the Rainbow." And we all remember the Depression-era classic "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" But very few can name the man who put the words to these celebrated hallmarks of American music- Yip Harburg. Five hundred songs spanning a fifty-year career bear witness to the brilliance of this until-now obscure figure.
Plunge into this scrupulously documented volume and discover how Harburg, once a poet of light verse, played a major role in the transformation of the Broadway revue into the sophisticated musical of the 1940s and 1950s. With extensive and exclusive interviews and lyrical analysis, the authors capture Harburg's wit, distinctive voice, and creative and collaborative methods.
Inquiry into Harburg's Jewish, New York City roots, apprenticeship in his craft, and involvement in the radical politics of the 1930s- he was blacklisted in the 1950s- puts into context the seemingly irreconcilable skepticism and optimism that contoured this lyrical genius's life and work.
This loving memoir of a fifty-year career helps explain the heartbreak and the subtle political agenda that informed such songs as 'Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,' 'Paper Moon,' and 'April in Paris,' to say nothing of the glorious lyrics for the delicious 'Finian's Rainbow' and, of course the enduring film classic of the book's title.
-Christian Science Monitor
Ultimately, Harburg's great subject wasn't just love and its anguishes --Topic A Through Z for songwriters of that era -- but belief and its crises.
- Harold Meyerson
[An] excellent biography . . . . This book is meticulously annotated and is, in its way, the ideal of how such a career should be chronicled.
- Times Literary (London)
[This] detailed analysis of lyrics and the connections of lyrics with the music will provide much food for thought for all those who seek to understand how popular culture can work, at its best, against the logic of the cash-register system that handles the receipts, manipulates the audience, and pays off the artist (as little as possible). The best thing about Who Put the Rainbow is that, like Yip himself, it manages to tell the truth about Yip's cultural politics without ever being heavy-handed. This is a lesson we all need to learn.
- Monthly Review
. . . required reading for anyone interested in the great American songs.
- New York Times Book Review
. . . a virtuoso critical assessment of lyric writing. . . .
- American Theatre