cover image Yip Harburg: Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist

Yip Harburg: Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist

Harriet Hyman Alonso. Wesleyan Univ, $28.95 (314p) ISBN 978-0-8195-7128-1

Alonso, a City College of New York history professor, constructs the life and times of the man known as “Broadway’s social conscience,” E.Y. Harburg, who left a rich musical legacy of lovely, poetic songs packed with a solid political punch in film, radio plays, and on the Great White Way. Called “Yip” by his peers and pundits, he was born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and early on became a fan of Yiddish theater; later he worked with some of the greatest musical composers in the last century such as Ira Gershwin and Harold Arlen. Yip creatively used the Depression years of the 1930s through the postwar era of the 1950s to fuel some of his popular hits such as Bing Crosby’s “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?,” Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow,” Doris Day’s “April in Paris,” and Frank Sinatra’s “Last Night When We were Young.” Although Yip enjoyed great success on Broadway and Hollywood in their golden era, novelist Ayn Rand denounced his film song, “And Russia Is Her Name,” in 1947, which got him blacklisted during the Red Scare, but that didn’t prevent him from penning classic songs against racism, sexism, greed, and fascism. In this detailed, entertaining account, Alonso gives life to a courageous man and artist who risked it all for some simple human truth. (Dec.)