E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, who wrote the words to "Over the Rainbow," "Old Devil Moon" and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?," will be honored April 28 with a commemorative U.S. postage stamp.
A wildly playful writer who penned antic verse (and choice romantic lyrics) for the musicals Bloomer Girl, Finian's Rainbow, Jamaica, The Happiest Girl in the World, Darling of the Day, Flahooley and the film "The Wizard of Oz," Harburg (1896-1981) was also fiercely supportive of liberal social causes. His political feelings often seeped into his shows, offering views on slavery, freedom, women's suffrage, class, the arms race, war and more.
Fans know that in addition to standards such as "Paper Moon," "April in Paris" and "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" he wrote socially-potent lyrics for "When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich" (about class distinction, from Finian's Rainbow), "Leave de Atom Alone" (about nuclear arms, from Jamaica), "Napoleon" (about the fleeting fame of celebrities, tyrants and politicians, from Jamaica ), "The Eagle and Me" (the expression of a runaway slave in Bloomer Girl).
The United States Postal Service's new 37-cent commemorative postage stamp shows a picture of Harburg smiling on his older years, with the words "Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue" floating around him.
A theatrical concert to launch the stamp and honor Yip Harburg will take place on April 28 at Manhattan's 92nd Street Y, from 6-7:15 P.M. The stamp will be unveiled at the end of the performance. Scheduled to appear at the Y concert are Michael Feinstein; Maureen McGovern; Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson; Joel Grey and others, including Yip's teenage grandson, Ben Harburg, as well as Yip's son Ernie Harburg, his father's biographer.
Harburg was a longtime member of ASCAP, the songwriters advocacy and performing rights organization. He joined ASCAP in 1930.
Finian's Rainbow was the first Broadway show in which black and white performers danced together.
The Yip Harburg- Harold Arlen classic "Over the Rainbow" was named the number one film song of all time by the American Film Institute; in 2001 it was chosen as the greatest song of the 20th century in a Recording Industry Association of America/National Endowment for the Arts poll.
The 92nd Street Y is located at 1395 Lexington Avenue (corner of 92nd Street). Admission is free on a first come-first serve basis.
The famed "Lyrics & Lyricists" series at the 92nd Street Y was launched with Yip Harburg as its first guest in 1970. He appeared in three more in the series before he died; four special L&L tributes to Yip have taken place since, the latest in March 2004.
For more information about the life and work of Harburg, visit www.yipharburg.com.