Esteemed thinker: Harold Arlen


Perhaps one of the most enchanting forms that takes shape in nature is the rainbow; an arch of colors that will appear as if out of nowhere.  From behind a veil of grey clouds, after a dreary day, the rainbow brightens the slate sky like a flashy peacock unfanning its feathers. This kaleidoscopic ribbon stretches itself across the sky for all to see, and then, without much warning, fizzles away, leaving behind a wanting of more.

Today’s blog brings to you the esteemed thinker: Harold Arlen (1905, Buffalo NY- 1986 ) born Hymen Arluck, the son of an acclaimed synagogue cantor and became one of Americas greatest song writers and composers.  At the age of nine his mother bought him a piano, though slowly warming up to the instrument as a reluctant student of classical music. But his attitude soon changed when at the age of twelve he learned a ragtime piece. Suddenly he was inspired. Harold_Arlen_1960

He quit school at fifteen to play at movie houses and by twenty-one he had his first solo piano piece published, “Minor Gaff (Blues Fantasy).”

Arlen compositions were unique, longer than the 32-bar ditties his most composers of the time were writing. His songs had grand leaps from one note to another —often considered a challenge for singers — and traces of melancholy. In 1933, he was writing for Harlem’s most popular nightclub, and with lyricist Ted Koehler, produced a song that was exceptional, “Stormy Weather.”

In 1938, Arlen and lyricist Yip Harburg were working the film The Wizard of Oz. For 14 weeks — and $25,000 — they composed one amazing song after another; they called them “lemon drop songs.” IT was “Over the Rainbow” that became a sensation for the movie and Judy Garland at the start of her career.

Arlene had a most successful career, collaborating with the greatest of the Tin Pan Alley lyricists, including Johnny Mercer, Ted Koehler, Leo Robin, Ira Gershwin, Dorothy Fields and Truman Capote.