Wrote the enduring standard "Dinah"
Top Hollywood composer of 1920s and 30s.
Harry Akst was born in New York City on August 15, 1894, beginning a career that would prove him one of the most prolific composers of the era and an accomplished pianist and conductor. His early career was as a pianist and accompanist, for 4 years he was beside Nora Bayes. In 1916 he enlisted in the U.S. Army. While at Camp Upton, Akst befriended another young composer, Irving Berlin. Together, the two would create the # 2 recording from 1921, "Home Again Blues". By World War II, he again joined the war effort, this time as an accompanist and bandleader for Al Jolson's overseas tour.
In 1925, Akst, along with lyricists Sam Lewis and Joe Young, wrote one of the most recorded songs from the 1920's: "Dinah". "Dinah" had its first hit recording in 1926, when Ethel Waters' version reached # 2 on the charts. Ted Lewis followed with a top ten hit in 1930 and then in 1932 both Bing Crosby and The Mills Brothers helped "Dinah" reach the # 1 spot on Billboard. Other notable recordings were The Boswell Sisters (# 3 in 1935), Fats Waller (# 7 in 1936) and Sam Donohue (# 9 in 1946).
Other notable collaborations were with Benny Davis ("A Smile Will Go A Long Way", "Baby Face", "There's Nothing Too Good For My Baby"), Jack Yellen ("I Says To Myself Says I Say (There's The One For Me"), Grant Clarke ("Am I Blue", "As Long As I'm With You", "Don't It Mean A Thing", "Birmingham Bertha") and Sidney Clare ("Everybody Swing", "Don't Throw Kisses", "Blue is the Evening", "My Strongest Weakness is You"). With Al Jolson, Akst composed "The Egg and I", "No Sad Songs For Me" and "Stella".
Akst collaborated on the 1927 Broadway production of "Artists and Models" and moved to Hollywood in the late 1920s to work on Hollywood Musicals. Songs Akst contributed for film, or full film scores include Bulldog Drummond, The Squall, This Is Heaven, On With The Show, Broadway Babies, Mississippi Gambler, No, No, Nanette, Song of the West, The Song of the Flame, Lethernecking, Palmy Days, The Kid From Spain, Dinah, Professional Sweetheart, Glamour, Stand Up and Cheer, Change of Heart, The Silver Streak, Paddy O'Day, Star For A Night, Fight For Your Lady, Up the River, Battle of Broadway, Island in the Sky, Harvest Melody, Rosie the Riveter and This Time For Keeps.
Harry Akst died in Hollywood, California on March 31, 1963. He was 69.