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Yip Harburg
Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist
Harriet Hyman Alonso


Wesleyan University Press
2012 • 332 pp. 16 illus. 6 x 9 1/4"
Biography / Music

$28.95 Hardcover, 978-0-8195-7128-1

$22.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-7124-3

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

“In this detailed, entertaining account, Alonso gives life to a courageous man and artist who risked it all for some simple human truth.” Publishers Weekly

A new interview-based biography of The Wizard of Oz lyricist

Known as “Broadway’s social conscience,” E. Y. Harburg (1896–1981) wrote the lyrics to the standards, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?,” “April in Paris,” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” as well as all of the songs in The Wizard of Oz, including “Over the Rainbow.” Harburg always included a strong social and political component to his work, fighting racism, poverty, and war. Interweaving close to fifty interviews (most of them previously unpublished), over forty lyrics, and a number of Harburg’s poems, Harriet Hyman Alonso enables Harburg to talk about his life and work. He tells of his early childhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, his public school education, how the Great Depression opened the way to writing lyrics, and his work on Broadway and Hollywood, including his blacklisting during the McCarthy era. Finally, but most importantly, Harburg shares his commitment to human rights and the ways it affected his writing and his career path. Includes an appendix with Harburg’s key musicals, songs, and films.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS


“The book is far more lively and less politically earnest than its title suggests. In fact, it is downright chatty, being essentially a sort of oral history Alonso crafted out of nearly 50 published and unpublished transcripts of radio and television broadcasts, speeches, roundtables, and conversations in which Harburg participated over the years.”—James M. Keller, Pasatiempo

“an excellent introduction to the artist.”—Joseph Epstein, The Wall Street Journal

“…a good portrait of that picturesque leprechaun of a fellow who followed a crock of gold past that paper moon to somewhere over the rainbow.”—Steven Suskin, Playbill


“Yip Harburg was a brilliant lyricist, committed humanitarian, and an engaging raconteur. Harriet Alonso has done a superb job of weaving Harburg’s own words and memories into a compelling biography of one of the giants of the Great American Songbook.”Walter Frisch, professor of music, Columbia University

“At concerts I often used to talk about Yip, how he and Harold Arlen wrote ‘Over the Rainbow’ and then I’d get the whole audience to sing it together.”Pete Seeger

HARRIET HYMAN ALONSO teaches history at The City College of New York and is the author of the award-winning Growing Up Abolitionist: The Story of the Garrison Children and Robert E. Sherwood: The Playwright in Peace and War. For more information on YIP HARBURG, visit the website of the Yip Harburg Foundation,

Wed, 18 Mar 2015 09:46:32 -0500