Tuesday, November 29, 2016

You'll Know the Music - but Not the SongWriter...Harry Warren

Use of Excerpt Approved by Author,
 Guy Graybill

One Warren tune, "Chattanooga Choo Choo," became the first gold record...

The Great Unsung Songwriter
Harry Warren may have been the most prolific songwriter in America, Italian-American or otherwise! Yet, a quarter century after his death, he remains unknown. During my seven decades of attending movies and listening to music, I'd never noticed the name of Harry Warren. One must ask why Dmitri Tiomkin or Irving Berlin had their names splashed before movie audiences while an equally prolific songwriter--a man whose songs won three academy awards and who had 42 of his songs on the old radio show, "Your Hit Parade" (Berlin had but 33)--had gone unheralded.

Harry Warren was born December 24, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were Italian immigrants. His given name was Salvatore Anthony Guaragria. It is said that his sisters renamed him as Harry Warren. In 1918 he and Josephine Wensler were married. The had two children, Harry Jr. and Joan. They lost Harry Jr. to complications from pneumonia is 1938. When Harry died in 1981, he was buried in Los Angeles.

In one parallel with his competitor, Irving Berlin, Harry, too, lacked formal training in music. However, once his songs became noticed, his talent was in demand for years, writing songs and movie scores. Many of the top singers of their day, household names in America, were busy belting Harry Warren tunes and getting rich in the process. He wrote songs for three major motion picture studies, MGM, Warner Brothers, and Twentieth Century Fox. The three Harry Warren songs that won Academy Awards were:

Other songs that got considerable attention were "No Love, No Nothin'," "Serenade in Blue," "September in the Rain..."

"We're in the Money," and "Shuffle off to Buffalo." In 1980 the aging songster was invited to return to writing songs for a movie. Thus, at the age of 86, Harry Warren was again writing songs; but the picture was never completed. Still, despite one of the most impressive musical resumes in America, outside the music industry Harry Warren has remained a virtual unknown.

Salvatore Anthony Guaragna might still get the deserved recognition if fans approached the federal and New York State governments. Resolutions and even a day of recognition might be established. Imagine a day when radios set aside time to play some of the top Harry Warren tunes and backed them with appropriate remarks. Harry Warren deserves such recognition. Even those  too young to remember any of the early Harry Warren titles, would surely recognize a Harry Warren song that we've not even identified to this point, a song that was quite popular for its very catchy melody, even if the words were uninspired. Likely, the most memorable Harry Warren song is "That's Amore."

Some of you may remember the songs by more recent musicians...For instance, this was one of my favorite Harry Warren songs...even though I didn't know who the songwriter was...

It is both sad...and wonderful...that songs continue after the death of the world's great songwriters...but I have to agree with Author Graybill that, especially for those who have received Academy Awards for their music, they should not fall into the past...unknown... 

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