Before reading this book, I just knew that I loved the Wizard of Oz and its songs, not knowing, really, who had written them (maybe a vague reference to Harold Arlen, the composer, in my head, but lyricists often go less recognized).
Through Alonso’s book, I got a great portrait of the wordsmith who came up with the lyrics to that movie’s songs, among many others (“Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”, “It’s Only a Paper Moon” and many more), and the social critique hidden in many of his songs. Yip Harburg was an avid human rights champion and had to weather blacklisting during the McCarthy era.
As I was building the index for this book (I get paid to index, but not to review), I really got to enjoy the rhythm of Harburg’s interviewed voice with the lyrics to his songs. Alonso made these two elements flow nicely together, which I’m sure would have made Yip smile. 🙂 She could have stuck to a straight narrative on Harburg’s life and creative work, but I found him much more accessible in this interview format, mainly because he was just as clever and insightful in conversation as he was lyrically.
I remain proud to have made some small contribution to the story of the guy who wrote the lyrics to “Over the Rainbow,” an iconic song and mythic cinematic story from my childhood.
You can find this book at Amazon.com here.