Who Put the Rainbow in the Wizard of Oz?: Yip Harburg, Lyricist (Anglais) Broché – 30 juin 1995
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Yip Harburg - lyricist for Finian's Rainbow, Bloomer Girl, and Wizard of Oz, as well as a metric ton of standards in the American songbook - ranks with such colleagues as Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, and Lorenz Hart. Unlike most of his rivals, he had mastered the old French "trick" verse forms like villanelle, triolet, and rondeau. His lyrics tend to read well, even without their tunes.
Contrary to popular opinion, however, he did not introduce sophisticated wit into the American lyric. That tradition went back to P. G. Wodehouse's contributions to Kern's Princess shows, at least. What he did bring in was a concern for social issues (his first big hit was "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime"), a unique fancy, and a gallon of knockabout humor. He mastered the comic song, as "Lydia, the Tatood Lady" for Groucho Marx amply shows. He also is probably the classic pop lyricist who pushed metaphor and simile to their limit while keeping the breezy American idiom and without crossing over to the deadeningly Arty.
Meyerson and Harburg (Yip's son) do a great job of laying out the roots of the political and cultural movements Yip came from. They do a bang-up job analyzing lyrics without getting too technical. They also include an addendum, written by Yip, on "cosmic mysteries." Harburg came to a hard, realistic atheism early and stuck with it, but he was a dreamer by temperament and by conviction. Consequently, there's an interesting tension throughout the chapter that lifts it above the trite and New Age-y. It's also funny as hell.
The only reason I don't give this book 5 stars is because I can't bring myself to mention it in the same breath as Anna Karenina. However, it's still a wonderful book on one of our best song poets.
Every time I mention Yip Harburg in a conversation and get "Who?" in response, I offer to loan them this book.