Hy Zaret Papers

Circa 1940s photo of a smiling young man in a pin-striped suit.

Verso of photo reads: Kindly credit Boris Bakchy Photographyer, 1650 B'way., New York City, circle 5-9622

Identity elements

Reference code


Name and location of repository

Level of description



Hy Zaret Papers


  • 1936 - 2007 (Creation)


40 linear feet: 10 LP boxes, 1 CD box, 21 banker’s boxes, 4 scrapbooks, and 4 framed items.

Name of creator

(1907-08-21 - 2007-07-02)

Biographical history

Hy Zaret (August 21, 1907 – July 2, 2007) was born Hyman Harry Zaritsky in New York City to Max and Dora Zaritsky, who emigrated from Russia in the 1890s. Zaret attended public schools, but was not an enthusiastic student. Despite his small stature, he played football at a local community center. He attended West Virginia University and Brooklyn Law School, where he received his LLB. Zaret practiced law for a few years and legally changed his name in 1934. His first major lyrical success came in 1935 when he wrote the words to “Dedicated to You” with Saul Chaplin and Sammy Cahn. He served as a sergeant in the War Music Division during World War II and wrote many war-related tunes, including “Song of the Army Nurse Corps” and “Soldiers of God (The Chaplain’s Song).” He also wrote English lyrics for “The Partisan” and “La Marsellaise.” In 1944, he wrote the lyrics to “One Meat Ball”, which became a success for the Andrews Sisters. Zaret’s biggest hit, “Unchained Melody”, written for the 1955 prison film Unchained, received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Original Song. Recorded by more than 300 artists, the song saw renewed interest in the 1990s with its inclusion in the movie Ghost. In the ensuing years, it received multiple awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone magazine. Beginning in the early 1950’s, Zaret began writing lyrics (usually in conjunction with composer Lou Singer) for children’s educational songs and public service announcements for which he received numerous accolades. His efforts include Ballads for the Age of Science, Little Songs on Big Subjects, Little Songs for Better Schools, Little Songs for Busy Voters, Little Songs for Living Longer, Little Songs on Fire Prevention, Spotlight Ballads, Little Songs for the American Cancer Society, Sing-Along for Mental Health, and others. Zaret’s marriage to Shirley Goidel produced two sons, Thomas (who predeceased him) and Robert. Zaret passed away in 2007 at the age of 99.

Name of creator

(1912-02-26 - 1966-12-28)

Biographical history

Name of creator

(1910-12-04 - 1991-09-08)

Biographical history

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

Papers and sound recordings spanning the career of lyricist Hy Zaret (Hyman Harry Zaritsky). Includes research, notes, handwritten musical notes and lyrics on staff paper, mock-ups and drafts of sheet music, printed sheet music, orchestrations, arrangements, and folios. It includes copyright registrations, requests for use, letters of praise, scrapbooks, and correspondence. Collection also contains plaques and certificates presented to Zaret for milestones related to “Unchained Melody” and in appreciation for his work with Lou Singer on children’s educational music, and audio recordings featuring unpublished and commercial reel-to-reel tapes, 78s, LPs, and lacquers of Zaret’s songs, his Little Songs, and research-related materials.

System of arrangement

The collection has been divided into two major series: Papers and Audiovisual. “Papers” has been further divided into the following subseries: Personal; Awards, News Clippings; Professional statements, contracts, lists; Army compositions, “Little Songs” – Drafts, music, notes, and correspondence; Other Music – copyright registration; Other Music – Published; and Other Music – Unpublished. “Audiovisual” has been organized by type of recording – Lacquer disk (most of which have been digitized), LPs, and reels.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

All material is open to the public without restriction. Copyright laws of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) govern the making of photocopies or other reproductions.

Physical access

Technical access

All 7", 10" and 12" lacquer discs in this collection have been transferred to digital files and are available through Media Collections Online at Indiana University-Bloomington. Please contact the Library and Archives staff for access to these materials.

Conditions governing reproduction

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to the Great American Songbook Foundation. Music written prior to 1923 is in the public domain. For more information, please consult the staff of the Library & Archives.

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Scripts of the material

Language and script notes

Finding aids

Uploaded finding aid

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

Immediate source of acquisition

Received from Shirley Zaret, Hy Zaret's widow, in New York City on July 21, 2009.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


A2016-004 (received February 3, 2016)
A2016-014 (received May 26, 2016)

Related materials elements

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related archival materials

Alex North music for documentary film, theater, dance, and concert, 1910-1984, Library of Congress. https://lccn.loc.gov/2014572554

Related descriptions

Notes element

Specialized notes

  • Citation: Hy Zaret Papers, The Great American Songbook Foundation.
  • Conservation: All 7", 10" and 12" lacquer discs have been digitized.

Alternative identifier(s)

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Sources used

Archivist's note

Initial inventory created by Elizabeth Ungemach, June 2013.
AtoM description created by Ashlee James, November 2017.
Processing completed by Elisabeth Hedges, November 2023.

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Digital object metadata

Digital object (Master) rights area

Digital object (Reference) rights area

Digital object (Thumbnail) rights area

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