- 1944-06-02 - 2012-08-06
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- 1945-03-02 - 2019-08-22
Born and raised in Temple, Texas, Arnold attended Michigan State University where he earned undergraduate and master's degrees in Music Composition. His music career began in West Point, New York as an arranger for the United States Military Academy Band. He established a successful music career in New York City where he worked with numerous entertainers over the years. Notably, he was the music director and accompanist for the legendary Margaret Whiting, working with her for over 25 years.
His compositions in classical, Latin and jazz were commissioned, published, and recorded by organizations around the country. Additionally, Tex has written orchestrations for the Lincoln Center American Songbook series and for Carnegie Hall tributes.
For six years, Arnold participated as mentor and accompaniest in the Great American Songbook Foundation’s annual Songbook Academy event for teens.
- 1903-03-10 - 1931-08-06
Bix Beiderbecke was an American jazz cornetist who was an outstanding improviser and composer of the 1920s. He played with a distinctive tone and strikingly original improvisational style. He is considered the first major white jazz soloist. Beiderbecke’s only competitor among cornetists in the 1920s was Louis Armstrong, but the two cannot be compared due to their different styles and sounds.
Bix was born March 10, 1903 in Davenport, Iowa. His mother was a musician who played piano and was the organist for the First Presbyterian Church. Bix was a bit of a child prodigy, picking out tunes on the piano when he was three years old. While he had formal training in piano, he taught himself the cornet largely by ear, which led him to adopt a non-standard fingering some critics have connected to his original sound. Bix attended Davenport High School from 1918 to 1921, during which time he sat in and played professionally with various bands. His parents disapproved of his playing music so in 1921 they enrolled him in the exclusive Lake Forest Academy, just north of Chicago. However, his interest in music remained and he often visited Chicago to listen to jazz bands in night clubs and speakeasies. He was ultimately expelled from school and returned to Davenport in 1923.
That same year Bix joined the Wolverine Orchestra and recorded with them later the following year. In late 1924 Bix left the Wolverines to join Jean Goldkette’s Orchestra, but his inability to read sheet music resulted in him eventually losing the job. In 1926 he played with Frankie Trumbauer’s Orchestra with whom he recorded “In a Mist.” In 1927 Bix joined the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, which was the highest paid dance band of the 1920s. Bix played on four hit records, all under the Whiteman name: “Together,” “Ramona,” “My Angel,” and “Ol’ Man River,” which featured Bing Crosby on vocals. Bix made his greatest recordings in 1927; he helped define the jazz ballad with his solos on “Singin’ the Blues” and “I’m Coming, Virginia”. “In a Mist” (1927), one of a handful of his piano compositions and the only one he ever recorded, was a solo masterpiece that fused jazz with classical influences.
For Bix, the downside of being with Whiteman was the relentless touring and recording schedule, which exacerbated his lifelong troubles with alcohol. On November 30, 1928, while on tour in Cleveland, Bix suffered what was termed a “nervous crisis”; but it has been suggested that it was actually an acute attack of delirium tremens brought about by Bix’s attempt to curb his alcohol intake. Bix returned to Davenport in February 1929 to convalesce and Whiteman famously kept Bix’s chair open in his honor, hoping he would return.
Bix returned to New York in January 1930 but was never the same again. He did not rejoin the Whiteman Orchestra and performed only sparingly. On his last recording session in September 1930, Bix played on the original recording of Hoagy Carmichael’s new song, “Georgia on My Mind,” which would go on to become a jazz and popular music standard. He lived the rest of his life in a rooming house in Queens, New York, where he was known to drink heavily while composing his solo piano pieces, “Candlelight,” “Flashes,” and “In the Dark,” none of which he ever recorded. He died at age 28 on August 6, 1931 as the result of an alcoholic seizure.
- 1904-05-21 - 1943-12-15
- 1888-05-11 - 1989-09-22
Israel Beilin, known as Irving Berlin, is widely regarded as one of the best and most prolific American composer-lyricists ever. Although born in Russia, his father brought the family to the US in 1893 to escape the widespread religious persecution in Russia during that period. The family, like many Jewish immigrants of the time, was extremely poor. Berlin worked to help support his family from the age of 8, hawking newspapers and singing for spare change. It was in those jobs that he learned what kind of music people wanted to hear and picked up the "ghetto" language and culture for which his work would become famous. As a teenager he began plugging songs at Tony Pastor's Music Hall, and in 1906 he was hired as a singing waiter at the Pelham Cafe. He apparently taught himself to play piano after hours by copying and improvising on popular songs.
After working as a song plugger for Harry Von Tilzer for several years, in 1911 Berlin finally wrote and published the song that would catapult him into the spotlight: "Alexander's Ragtime Band". He rode the song's popularity, writing a ragtime musical revue in 1914 called "Watch Your Step". It was his first complete musical score. He soon transitioned into writing a string of lyric ballads as well as hundreds of briefly popular topical songs. In 1919 Berlin made headlines again when he wrote "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody" for Florenz Ziegfeld's "Follies of 1919"; the song would be used as the opening theme for every Follies after that, as well as the 1936 movie "The Great Ziegfeld".
Berlin felt strongly that even Tin Pan Alley should support the US during times of conflict; when the US entered World War I in 1917, he wrote the song "For Your Country and My Country" and, after being drafted that same year, created the revue "Yip Yip Yaphank" as part of the 152nd Depot Brigade. The revue would end up on Broadway the next year, with Berlin performing. One notable song that didn't make it into the revue, but that he would finally publish in 1938, was "God Bless America".
After the end of World War I, Berlin created the Music Box Theater with Sam Harris to help showcase his songs. Between the wars, he published a steady stream of what would become popular standards: "Always," "Blue Skies," "Puttin' on the Ritz," and "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm." He also headed several revues, including "As Thousands Cheer," which added "Heat Wave" and "Supper Time" to his growing list of standards. He also wrote scores and songs for major film musicals, including "Top Hat" (1935), "Alexander's Ragtime Band" (1938), "Holiday Inn" (1942), "Blue Skies" (1946) and "Easter Parade" (1948). "Holiday Inn," of course, was the vehicle for one of the best-selling songs of all time: "White Christmas," sung by Bing Crosby.
Berlin immediately returned to his patriotic writing after the attack on Pearl Harbor, creating another stage show called "This Is the Army." He supervised the 300-man production as it ran on Broadway and in Washington, DC, and then continued to travel with it overseas for over 3 years. He personally performed "Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning," originally written for "Yip Yip Yaphank," at nearly every show. He took no wages the entire time, and donated all the show's profits to the Army Emergency Relief Fund.
Almost immediately upon his return to the US, Berlin was approached by Rodger and Hammerstein to compose the music for their upcoming musical "Annie Get Your Gun"; Jerome Kern had been hired to write the score, but his sudden death left the pair stranded until Berlin reluctantly accepted. Despite his reluctance, "Annie Get Your Gun" includes some of Berlin's most famous Broadway songs: "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "Anything You Can Do." Berlin went on to write several more shows, the most successful of which was another Ethel Merman vehicle, "Call Me Madam." After writing "Mr. President" in 1962, Berlin officially renounced his retirement and stuck to it, very rarely appearing at public events and only writing one more new song, "An Old-Fashioned Wedding," for the Broadway revival of "Annie Get Your Gun" in 1966.
Berlin died in his sleep at the age of 101.
- 1899-11-22 - 1981-12-27
Hoagland Howard Carmichael was an American jazz singer-songwriter. Born and raised mostly in central Indiana, Carmichael's only real musical training were piano and voice lessons from his mother when he was a child. He attended high school and college in Bloomington, Indiana, playing piano and travelling around Indiana with his friend Bix Beiderbecke. Carmichael would eventually earn a law degree in 1926. He passed the Indiana bar exam but devoted most of his time to writing music. He recorded his first major song, "Star Dust," in late 1927, playing the piano himself and accompanied by Bix and members of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. By 1929, with some limited success with other songs like "Washboard Blues," Carmichael gave up trying to be a lawyer and moved to New York City. There he met sheet music producer Irving Mills. Mills published "Star Dust" as "Stardust", with lyrics by Mitchell Parish added, as well as "Rockin' Chair". The latter was recorded by Louis Armstrong and quickly became a hit; the former finally saw commercial success when it was recorded by Isham Jones the next year in 1930. "Stardust" would be recorded again and again by a number of other famous artists for the next several decades.
Carmichael followed up his successes with another jazz standard, "Georgia on My Mind." Then, in 1933, he met up-and-coming lyricist Johnny Mercer. The pair went on to write several dozen songs, the most popular of which were "Lazybones," "Moon Country," and "In the Cool, Cool, Cool, of the Evening." Carmichael also began performing professionally. In 1936 he moved cross-country to Hollywood, working as a contracted songwriter for Paramount Pictures and occasionally acting as a character actor while continuing to write individual songs. In 1941 his continuing collaboration with Johnny Mercer produced another instant hit: "Skylark." The 1940s were arguably the peak of Carmichael's career, with numerous recordings, acting roles, and radio programs; the 1950s were filled with appearances in television variety shows. Aside from Ray Charles' 1960 hit recording of "Georgia On My Mind," however, Carmichael's songwriting career waned in the era of rock'n'roll and never recovered. He died of heart failure at the age of 82.
- 1899-12-16 - 1973-03-26
Noël Coward was an English playwright and composer who is best known in the United States for his plays, musical comedies, and operettas. His writing was famous for its sharp wit and often risque subject matter.
Born in southwest London, Coward got into acting as a young child. His first official performance was in "The Goldfish" at age 11. He continued acting onstage through World War I, and began writing his own plays as well. In 1921 Coward visited the United States for the first time and, although he failed to interest any serious producers in his work at that time, took a number of lessons away from his observations of Broadway. He achieved his first real success in 1924 with "The Vortex". For the rest of the 1920s Coward was writing and producing his plays, often acting in them as well, and also performing in others' works. He worked on both sides of the Atlantic, and the Great Depression did little to slow him. He wrote, performed, and added recording his songs to his repertoire as well. Some of his better-known works are "Fallen Angels", "Hay Fever", "Private Lives", the revue "On with the Dance", and the operetta "Bitter Sweet". Coward spent much of World War II touring and entertaining Allied troops.
Compared to his early career, Coward's post-war works were only moderately successful. He became better known for his cabaret act, performing in London and then in Las Vegas in 1954 and 1955. He also had parts in several movies. However, he achieved new prominence after a wave of revivals of his plays in the 1960s and '70s, as well as revues of his significant musical repertoire. Coward's image became synonymous with 20th century English theater, an association that amused him. He referred to his renewed popularity as "Dad's Renaissance."
Coward died of heart failure at the age of 73.
- 1891-06-09 - 1964-10-15
- 1905-02-15 - 1986-04-23
Harold Arlen was an American composer, arranger, pianist, and vocalist who is considered one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. He wrote over 400 songs but is most famous for composing the songs for the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, particularly “Over the Rainbow,” which was voted the 20th century’s No. 1 song. Arlen wrote some of the greatest hits from the 1930’s and 40’s, such as “Get Happy,” “Stormy Weather,” “It's Only a Paper Moon,” “I've Got the World on a String,” and “Last Night When We Were Young.” He was most prolific from 1929 through the 1950s.
He was born as Hyman Arluck in Buffalo, New York in 1905 to Jewish parents. The son of a Jewish cantor (a trained song-leader for Jewish services) and pianist, Arlen showed exceptional musical talent in childhood. Hyman loved to sing, but was extremely shy. His mother hoped that he would become a music teacher, so she introduced a piano into the Arluck home. Hyman began studying around the age of nine and quickly outgrew the neighborhood piano teacher. He went on to study with the leading local teacher, who was also a conductor, organist and composer. Before long, Hyman left school as a teenager and achieved some local success working as a vocalist and pianist in different bands. He moved to New York City in the 1920s, where he worked as an accompanist in vaudeville and changed his name to Harold Arlen. Arlen composed several songs during that period, but published the first of his many well-known pieces in 1929, "Get Happy", with lyrics by Ted Koehler. "Get Happy” attracted attention to the new songwriting-lyricist duo identifying Arlen and Koehler as hit writers. With “Get Happy” and other rhythmic songs to their credit, the team developed the reputation as writers of "bluesy" rhythm numbers, which were much in demand in the flourishing cabarets. Throughout the early and mid-1930s, Arlen and Koehler produced songs for Harlem’s infamous Cotton Club, which was at the heart of the cabaret scene, as well as for Broadway musicals and Hollywood films, creating familiar pieces such as "Stormy Weather" and "Let's Fall in Love."
In the mid-1930s, Arlen married, and spent increasing time in California, writing for movie musicals. It was at this time that he began working with lyricist E.Y. "Yip" Harburg. In 1938, the team was hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to compose songs for The Wizard of Oz, the most famous of which is "Over the Rainbow", which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song. They also wrote "Down with Love" (featured in the 1937 Broadway show Hooray for What!), "Lydia the Tattooed Lady", for Groucho Marx in At the Circus (1939), and "Happiness is a Thing Called Joe", for Ethel Waters in Cabin in the Sky (1943). Going into the 1940s, Arlen teamed up with Johnny Mercer to write a string of successful hits: "That Old Black Magic" (1942), "Accentuate the Positive" (1944), and "Come Rain or Come Shine" (1945), among others. From that point on he worked on various Broadway shows but became more reclusive as an illness in 1954 and the deaths of his parents in 1953 (his father) and 1958 (his mother), and later his wife (1970) caused him to lose interest in composing and music in general.
Arlen died of cancer at the age of 81.
- 1902-05-18 - 1984-06-15
Robert Meredith Willson (May 18, 1902 – June 15, 1984) was born in Mason City, Iowa, to John David and Rosalie Reininger Willson. Although Meredith started out playing the piano, his mother saved enough money to order a flute for him. At the age of 17, after high school graduation, he moved to New York to study the flute at what is now the Julliard School of Music. He performed small gigs as a flautist until hired as first flute with the John Philip Sousa Band. He toured with the Sousa Band from 1921 – 1923. He also worked with New York's Rialto theater orchestra, under the leadership of Hugo Riesenfeld. From 1924 to 1929, he played for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the New York Chamber Music Society. Willson joined the Army, serving as a Major in World War II, after which he worked as music director of ABC radio and television networks. He did a radio show called The Maxwell House Show Boat from Hollywood, which was later renamed Good News. He was also involved in the Armed Forces Radio Service for a time.
Willson married three times: first to his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth, whom he married on August 29, 1920 and later divorced; Ralina "Rini" Zarova, whom he married on March 13, 1948 and who died, December 6, 1966; and Rosemary Sullivan, whom he married on February 14, 1968. Meredith Willson died on June 15, 1984, in Santa Monica, California; his wife Rosemary survived him.
In 1924, Meredith Willson published his first piece of music: a composition called “Parade Fantastique.” Willson’s first big musical success was with his smash hit, The Music Man, which premiered December 19, 1957 at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway. It has since had two Broadway revivals, one in 1980 and one in 2000. Willson also contributed scores and librettos to the musicals The Music Man, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, 1491, and Here’s Love. Acting as lyricist and composer for most of his career, Willson wrote memorable standards including “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas”, “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You”, “You and I”, “Two in Love”, “76 Trombones”, “Goodnight, My Someone”, “Till There Was You”, “Trouble”, “My White Knight”, “Lida Rose”, “I Ain’t Down Yet”, “Belly Up to the Bar, Boys”, “The Big Clown Balloons”, “Pine Cones and Holly Berries”, “My Wish”, “Iowa Fight Song”, “I See the Moon”, “Ask Not” and “Symphonic Variations on an American Theme.” He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1982. In 2020, The Great American Songbook Foundation inducted Willson into the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame.
- 1890-09-22 - 1983-05-24
- 1926-09-25 -