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In Tune -- by Bill Fuller
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In Tune               February 2006
Harold Arlen (1905-1986)

Most of these men were Jewish. Harold Arlen was born Hyman Arluck and his father was a cantor.
Leora Henderson, Fletcher’s wife, recollects: “…And that [rehearsals] would get them all prepared for
the Battles of Jazz with the bands that were playing at Roseland [ballroom] – the Dorsey brothers, Casa
Loma, Vincent Lopez, Jean Goldkette, and there was one band they called The Buffalodians that had a
little kid playing piano. He was the boy who wrote ‘Stormy Weather.’ His name was Arlen … Harold
Here’s just a small sampling of some of his better known compositions:
AS LONG AS I LIVE – (1934) – this was introduced in the musical review “Cotton Club Parade” by
singer Lena Horne. The “Cotton Club Parade” was an annual show at Harlem’s most important night
club. It also provided a vehicle for the introduction of many Harold Arlen tunes such as “Raisin’ the
Rent,” “Happy as the Day is Long.” And “Get Yourself a New Broom.” Benny Goodman made a
recording of it with Teddy Wilson in May of 1934.
I GOT A RIGHT TO SING THE BLUES –(1932) – introduced, as were so many of Arlen’s tunes, in a
musical review. This one was Earl Carroll’s “Vanities” sung by Lillian Shade. In 1933 Benny Goodman
made a recoding of it for John Hammond on the English Columbia Label featuring Jack Teagarden. It
was subsequently recorded many times by trombonist Teagarden and became the theme song of his
short-lived but distinguished big band. It was also recorded early on by Cab Calloway and Louis
STORMY WEATHER-(1933), saw first light at the 22nd edition of  “Cotton Club Parade” and was sung
by Ethel Waters with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Former press agent, Ned Williams, remembers “…
the unforgettable night when Ethel Waters stood in the spotlight, with the Ellington band pulsating
behind her, and sang, for the first time in public, a song by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler called
‘Stormy Weather.’ I heard Ed Sullivan introduce Arlen on television the other night merely as the writer
of ‘Over the Rainbow.’ Oh, well.”  Of her performance Waters said, “…only those who have been hurt
deeply can understand what pain is or humiliation. Only those who are burned know what fire is really
like. I sang ‘Stormy Weather’ from the depths of the private hell in which I was being crushed and
GET HAPPY-(1930)- This was Arlen’s first big hit composition. It appeared in the 1930 show “9:15
Review.” After that he became a fulltime songwriter. His works were heard in six more stage musicals,
and he also contributed to four Cotton Club reviews.
IT’S ONLY A PAPER MOON –(1932) – He wrote this one for the show “The Great Magoo” which
opened on December 2,1932. George Gershwin called Harold Arlen, “…the most original of us all.”
BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA-(1931)-written for the show “Rhyth-Mania.”
I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING-(1932)-composed for the 21st edition of the “Cotton Club
Parade.”  It was an instant hit.
Arlen was elected to membership in the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. He died in New York in 1986 at age
Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning
for Jazz Advancement and Socialization
Harold Arlen was a giant of a composer who never
seemed to get quite the recognition as some other
composers who were his contemporaries: George
Gershwin, Hoagy Carmichael, Cole Porter, Irving
Berlin, Jerome Kern and Richard Rodgers, for
Jonathan Yardley, in his obituary for Arlen on May
24, 1986 in the Washington Post wrote that “…his
songs are as deeply embedded in our popular
culture as those by any other composer, and his
standing among musicians – especially among jazz
musicians, the true judges of popular music – is
exceptionally high…. The ‘golden age’ of American
popular song…for more than 50 years enriched our
musical heritage as nothing except jazz has done –
and without it, jazz would have been both different
and poorer…