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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

Harry Warren (1893-1981): Harry who? Why, it’s “Tuti” Guaragna, #1

In 2005 Kathy and I went to the Tony Award-winning Best Revival of a Broadway musical, 42nd Street. It wasn’t a cool ticket of a cutting edge show but the experience was so enjoyable that I went again in 2006 and took my daughter, Angie. I was, and continue to be thoroughly entranced by the music and choreography. When I got back home to Asheville I began to purchase piano sheet music by the composer of 42nd Street so I could experience the magic of the tunes in my own home. I am ashamed to say the composer was someone whom I was only remotely familiar with – Harry Warren.

Warren hits

Warren’s musical accomplishments are so extraordinary they defy easy listing, but here are the highlights:
*First major American song composer to write primarily for Hollywood
*56 films released between l933 and l961 carry Warren’s credit as songwriter
*Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song 11 times (l935 – “Lullaby of Broadway” to l956 – “An Affair to Remember”)
*Won the Academy Award for Best Song three times (1935 – “Lullaby of Broadway,” l943 – “You’ll Never Know,” l946 – “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.”
*Wrote the music for the first blockbuster film musical, 42nd Street, in l933
*Collaborated with Busby Berkeley on 18 films
*Wrote songs for Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, MGM and Paramount Studios
*Wrote the first “gold” record song in history for the Glenn Miller Orchestra (“Chattanooga Choo-Choo”) in l941 (Sun Valley Serenade).
*Over 300 films used his songs between 1929 and 1981.
*Wrote over 800 published songs
*George Gershwin was always ashamed that he couldn’t write the mega-hits of Warren.
*Time magazine’s entertainment critic, Wilfred Sheed, wrote, “By silent consensus, the king of this army of unknown soldiers, the Hollywood incognitos, was Harry Warren, who had more songs on the Hit Parade than Irving Berlin himself and who would win the contest hands down if enough people had heard of him.”
*Richard Corliss, also of Time magazine, called Harry Warren, “Hollywood’s most prolific hit-maker.”
*William Zinsser: “The marvel of Warren’s gift is that you only have to hear a Harry Warren song once to own it for the rest of your life. Think of any Warren song and the melody is instantly there, all 32 bars, none of the notes wanting to be changed.”
*Alex Wilder: “Harry Warren wasn’t in the same category as the best theater writers, but he certainly was among the foremost pop song writers.”

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