Edgar Yipsel "Yip" Harburg, 1896 - 1981

portrait of Yip Harburg
(Circa 1950)

Born: 8 April 1896, New York City
Died: 4 April 1987, Hollywood, California

Born Isadore Hochberg to Russian-Jewish immigrants, he was raised in poverty on the Lower East Side of New York City. At Townsend Harris High School, alphabetic order had him sitting behind Ira Gershwin; the two were fast friends, shared a love for Gilbert and Sullivan, and worked on the school paper. He became a socialist, and the initials of the Young People's Socialist League became a part of his name: Edgar Yipsel Harburg. He had started writing light verse for newspapers before his electrical supply business failed following the crash of 1929 so he started writing song lyrics. One of the first was "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" which became something of an anthem for the Depression era. When the American Film Institute chose the Best Film Song of All Time in 2004 it was Yip's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", for which he won an Oscar with composer Harold Arlen. Yip not only wrote all of the lyrics for The Wizard of Oz, as the final script editor he wrote most of the spoken dialog. Although never a Communist, he was on the Hollywood blacklist which meant his talents were displayed only on Broadway for a decade. He wrote the lyrics for over 600 songs with more extensive writing and editing in dozens of revues, musicals, and movies. He died in an automobile accident on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard, he had a heart attack and lost control. Harburg was 84.

Biography from Wikipedia and Yip Harburg Foundation

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