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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!
You’ve probably never heard his name, but almost everyone has heard his songs. At the peak of his career, he had more “Top Ten” song hits than Cole Porter, the Gershwins and Irving Berlin combined. His music has been featured in numerous films, including the 1933 musical 42nd Street and two films in the early 1940s that starred the famous Glenn Miller Orchestra, Sun Valley Serenade and Orchestra Wives. In fact, his songs were recorded by numerous Big Bands of the Swing Era.
His songs are still a staple of cabaret performers throughout the world. Yet, during his lifetime, he was so obscure, he often joked that even his best friends didn’t know who he was.
He was born Salvatore Antonio Guaragna, the son of an Italian immigrant cobbler.
He’s better known (to those who know his name) as Harry Warren.
Source: (The person who submitted this to Wikimedia Commons wrote the following) By my own screen capture of public domain trailer (Gold Diggers of 1933 DVD) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Some of his best-known and best-loved songs include I Only Have Eyes For You, September In the Rain, At Last, There Will Never Be Another You and Chattanooga Choo-Choo – which, as recorded by Glenn Miller in 1942, became the first million-selling “Gold Record” in the history of popular music. He worked with many of the foremost lyricists of his day, including Al Dubin, Mack Gordon, Ira Gershwin and Johnny Mercer. Over a career that spanned more than six decades, Warren penned the music for 800 songs – 500 of which have been published (one must wonder what hidden gems may exist among the 300 others).
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be discussing this remarkable tunesmith and his body of work.
Here is one of Harry Warren’s early songs, a novelty song from 1928 that he wrote with lyricist Mort Dixon:
I had a rather interesting experience with this song once. I was performing it at a jam session during a trad jazz festival several years ago, singing the colorful, definitely politically in-correct lyrics in all their ribald glory, being cheered on lustily by the small crowd. When I had finished the vocal, I noticed a group of Japanese tourists standing there, listening. Needless to say, I was mortified – “Okay, open mouth, insert foot.”
One of them came up to me afterward with a big grin and told me he and his friends had laughed themselves silly. It was the funniest song they’d ever heard – and where could they find a recording?
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