I wrote a piece about Harold Arlen for the latest issue of the Weekly Standard:
In one sense Arlen’s credits are lackluster. None of his Broadway shows has ever been successfully revived, and except for The Wizard of Oz, the films on which he worked were, for the most part, unmemorable. And while he was also a highly accomplished singer who recorded a fair number of his finest songs—no one ever sang “Ill Wind” better—the timbre of his plaintive, throaty tenor voice was not quite distinctive enough to bring him the kind of mass popularity that [Hoagy] Carmichael and [Johnny] Mercer had during their salad days.
But…the songs! To catalogue them is to be reminded of what made the golden age of American popular song golden, and to be struck by how many of them were performed and recorded to indelible effect by the very best pop and jazz singers of the 20th century. Think, just for openers, of Fred Astaire’s “My Shining Hour,” Ray Charles’s “Come Rain or Come Shine,” Nat Cole’s “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” Bing Crosby’s “Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive,” Judy Garland’s “The Man That Got Away,” Lena Horne’s “Stormy Weather,” Peggy Lee’s “Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe,” Frank Sinatra’s “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road),” and Mel Tormé’s “When the Sun Comes Out.” Of such records is an era made….
Read the whole thing here.
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Harold Arlen plays and sings his songs on a 1954 episode of The Colgate Comedy Hour, assisted by Eddie Cantor, Connie Russell, and Frank Sinatra: