Cabaret Through Time Fridays at McElrath Cabaret: The Greatest Songwriter You Never Heard Of – And His Colleagues–Join Us!


Welcome to McElrath Cabaret–We hope you enjoy our cabaret blog!


Here is Dick Powell singing to Ruby Keeler the wonderful song by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, “I Only Have Eyes For You,” which was presented originally in the movie Dames from 1934–enjoy!


Fridays are the day when we at the McElrath Cabaret Blog present blog posts in our Cabaret Through Time series. We present historical cabaret singers, entertainers, venues, writers, and musicians, and often include cabaret videos. We hope that you find them informative!


The Greatest Songwriter You Never Heard Of – And His Colleagues (Harry Warren, Part 3)

Part One of this Harry Warren exploration.

Part Two of the Harry Warren exploration.

Harry Warren was best known for his melodies. Like Richard Rodgers, his tunes were unforgettable – but as a lyricist, he was less successful. Like most great melodists, he required collaboration with a lyricist.

This was not unusual during the Age of Great American Song. Cole Porter and Irving Berlin, each of whom wrote brilliant lyrics to their own tunes, were the rare exceptions. The vast majority of these songs were the result of partnerships – George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Da Silva, Henderson and Brown, Kern and Hammerstein, Arlen and Harburg, Dietz and Schwartz, Kalmar and Ruby, McHugh and Fields – the list goes on and on and on…

Working primarily in Hollywood, Warren was teamed with a number of lyricists during his career. This was largely due to the “studio system,” which affected composers and lyricists as much as it did actors; composers were under contract to a specific studio. On one hand, this afforded a certain amount of job security in a field not noted for this particular characteristic. On the other hand, working for a studio could be restrictive. One had to write what a particular director or producer wanted – and in many cases, the composer had to surrender control and ownership of his works.

Collaborations were also like arranged marriages. Unlike Broadway, where artists had more freedom (as well as recognition), the film composer worked with whatever lyricist the studio provided. Harry Warren was fortunate in this respect. His first long-term studio job with Warner Brothers paired him with lyricist Al Dubin; the products of this union that lasted throughout most of the 1930s, included I Only Have Eyes For You, Lullaby of Broadway, September in the Rain, I Found a Million Dollar Baby, Young and Healthy, Shuffle Off To Buffalo, The Gold Diggers’ Song and over fifty others.

In 1940, Warren jumped over to Paramount, where he was paired with lyricist Mack Gordon. One of their songs, Chattanooga Choo-Choo, became the first million-selling record in history; other notable songs born of their collaboration include At Last, I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo, There Will Never Be Another You, You’ll Never Know, Serenade in Blue and I Know Why (And So Do You) – many of which were popularized by the great Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Of course, Warren wrote songs with many other notable lyricists of the period, including Ira Gershwin and Johnny Mercer.

Interestingly, Harry Warren – like Cole Porter – made a single foray into “classical” music (the term “classical” here refers to music that is non-commercial and generally supported by public institutions). A lifelong Roman Catholic, Warren composed a Latin Mass in 1962 that was performed at Loyola Marymount, a Jesuit university in Los Angeles, in 1972. According to music scholar and performer Michael Feinstein, who mentions this in his book Nice Work If You Can Get It (indeed), the piece has never been recorded.

Part One of this Harry Warren exploration.

Part Two of the Harry Warren exploration.


What are your favorite songs from Harry Warren?  Have you ever heard of Harry Warren before?  Let us know in the comments below–we love to hear from you!


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Till next time, 


Weekly Post Lineup At McElrath Cabaret:

Tuesdays:  Cabaret Tip Tuesday

Wednesdays:  Ask A Cabaret Question

Fridays:  Cabaret Through Time

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About Athena at McElrath Cabaret

Athena McElrath is an entertainer with a love for theatre and singing. She enjoys delving in the area of historical cabaret, researching the singers and clubs that were in business from before 1920 to the present, in New York and beyond.
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One Response to Cabaret Through Time Fridays at McElrath Cabaret: The Greatest Songwriter You Never Heard Of – And His Colleagues–Join Us!

  1. Pingback: Cabaret Through Time Fridays at McElrath Cabaret: A George Gershwin Quote From Michael Feinstein’s Book – And His Colleagues–Join Us! | McElrath Cabaret Blog