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Hal Leonard


Honored with SHOF’s highest accolade, the Johnny Mercer Award, in 1981


E.Y. "Yip" Harburg was born Isidore Hochberg to Jewish immigrant parents on the lower east side of New York City on April 8, 1898. He was nicknamed "Yipsel" (Yiddish for squirrel) for his constant clowning and unbounded energy. Faithful Orthodox Jews, his parents immersed Harburg in the positive aspects of the world around him, including the arts. Yiddish theater had a profound effect upon him; the deft blending of humor, fantasy and social commentary left an indelible mark on his own work. He worked at many jobs while growing up, including putting pickles in jars at a small pickle factory, selling newspapers, and lighting street lamps along the docks of the East River.” He attended high school at Townsend Harris Hall, an experimental school for talented children, where he worked on the school newspaper with fellow student Ira Gershwin.

After graduation from City College of New York in 1921, Harburg worked as a journalist in South America.” When he returned to the United States, he became co-proprietor of an electrical appliance company that went out of business after the 1929 stock market crash.

Harburg's old friend Gershwin loaned him some money and introduced him to a number of talented composers and writers. Harburg ventured into songwriting by writing lyrics for music by Jay Gorney, a former lawyer. In 1929 they supplied six songs for Earl Carroll's Sketch Book. For the 1932 revue, Americana, they wrote what has been called "the anthem of the Depression," "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" Considered by Republicans to be anti-capitalist propaganda, it was almost dropped from the show and attempts were made…

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Discography Highlights

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