Composer. Considered one of the 'Great American Composers of the 20th Century,' Harold Arlen has over 400 songs to his credit. Born Hyman Arluck to Samuel and Celia Arluck in Buffalo, New York. Father of the household, Samuel Arluck, was a well known cantor in Buffalo's rapidly growing Jewish community. It was here that young Hyman first began singing and developing his musical talents. His parents introduced him to classical music and he learned the basics of the piano. As a preteen he found the classical pieces that he studied grand in composition, but he was much more interested in modern music. He was fascinated with the melodic rhythms of jazz and was an avid collector of jazz records, much to the dismay of his parents. Whenever a new jazz band came to Buffalo, he managed to see them perform. He sustained his appetite for popular music by playing in various bands around town and even took jobs as a pianist in local movie theatres. He was fifteen when he formed his own band 'The Snappy Trio.' Although the members of the trio were teenagers, they incurred no problems getting work in Buffalo's 'red-light district' cabarets. At sixteen he dropped out of high school to further pursue his musical interests. He was making good money and able to afford many spoils others in his neighborhood went without. At age nineteen, his first foray in songwriting was a collaboration with friend Hyman Cheiffetz. They penned the song, "My Gal, Won't You Please Come Back to Me?" and copyrighted lyrics by Cheiffetz and music by Arluck. He was invited to join a local band, 'The Yankee Six', and not long, the band grew into an eleven-man group called 'The Buffalodians.' They toured the East coast for several years with success. It was during this time he changed his name to Harold Arlen. As the early years went by Harold began to lack interest in songwriting. For financial reasons, he continued. In 1929 he composed, "The Album of My Dreams" to lyrics by Lou Davis and the song became a hit when covered by singer Rudy Vallee. Within the same year, twenty-four year old Arlen landed a singing and acting role as 'Cokey Joe' in the musical "The Great Day," by composer and producer Vincent Youmans. The year still proved fruitful when he teamed with lyricist Ted Koehler and signed a year long contract with the George and Arthur Piantadosi firm. The newly formed Arlen-Koehler team created the tune known as "Get Happy." In 1932, he met model, Anya Taranda, four years later they married. During this period, Arlen was in demand, collaborating with E.Y. "Yip" Harburg and George Gershwin on various projects, on both the East and West coasts. While on the West coast Arlen was under a one year contract to Warner Brothers studio and teamed with Yip Harburg to score three musicals. In 1938, Arlen and Harburg were signed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to write the score for the filming of "The Wizard of Oz." The musical score was a success earning an Academy Award for "Over The Rainbow" as the best song of the year. He remained busy in the years after "The Wizard of Oz," scoring movies for Paramount, Warner Brothers, and MGM studios. He has collaborated on such well known standards as, "Blues In The Night," "Stormy Weather," "That Old Black Magic," and " Come Rain or Come Shine." He divided his time between Broadway and Hollywood. Within a three year period, his father and mother died. In 1954, upon completion of "A Star Is Born" score, the rigors of steady work since 1935 came crashing down on Arlen in the form of a bleeding ulcer, which required a time of hospitalization. All things aside, and despite his poor health, the highly regarded musician continued to compose. He wrote over fifty songs between 1961 and 1976. The latter years of his life were not spent basking in the glory of his success. He lost his wife to a brain tumor on March 9, 1970. After Anya's death, he lost interest in life, withdrawing from friends and loved ones. He would work much less within the next sixteen years. Suffering from Parkinson's Disease and cancer he died quietly, surrounded by family, at his Central Park West apartment, in New York City. His nephew, Samuel, had been adopted by Arlen before his death and was made primary heir. Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg's song, "Over the Rainbow" was named the number one 'Song of the 20th Century' by the recording industry and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the American Film Institutes number one song of "AFI's Top 100 Films." Additionally, his songs have garnered eight Academy Award nominations. On September 11, 1996 the United States Postal Service presented the 'Big Band Leaders and Songwriters Series of Commemorative Stamps.' Harold Arlen was honored with a stamp, unveiled by Samuel Arlen, at a dedication ceremony in Shubert Alley in New York City.
Bio by: katzizkidz
Anya Taranda Arlen