Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Harry Warren the Hit Maker and Musician

Harry Warren

Who is Harry Warren? Ask anyone under 40 that very question any you might get a blank stare. I didn’t know who this composer was until I decided to look deeper into the origins of some of the music on the Carl Stalling Project-Part One. Specifically, the song I Only Have Eyes for You was the melody that stuck in my head. Harry Warren wrote that song in 1934. It was one of hundreds of hit songs for Warren, and that particular song was covered by the likes of Billie Holiday, Rod Stewart, Bette Midler, Zapp, Toni Tennile, Kenny Rodgers, Frank Sinatra, and dozens more.

Harry Warren the Musician

Warren was a self taught musician, first learning how to play the drums. He went on to learn many other instruments including the piano. Harry’s problem was his lyrics. They weren’t nearly as good as his melodies. He couldn’t find anyone to publish his songs until he found someone to write better lyrics. Edgar Leslie was just the man, and in 1922 the team had their first hit, titled Rose of the Rio Grande.” Fast forward seven years, and Warren had numerous hits, and the job title of director of ASCAP! He went on to use various composers to provide him with the words to his melodies, and the hits continued to come.

Forty Second Street the Musical Launch Pad for Warren

Harry Warren was already a hit maker before the producers of Forty Second Street tapped him as composer for the movie soundtrack. What came after was a career that stayed in the stratosphere. He went on to write for so many stars that it is impossible to name them all. He won two academy awards by 1943, and composed the scores for so many great films of that decade. He won an Oscar nomination in 1957 for the song An Affair to Remember.

Warren had twenty-one number one hit songs, won two Oscars, and over seventy of his songs can be heard in movies from 1929 to 1957. The sheer number of current and past musical stars that re-recorded his songs is probably in the hundreds. Tomorrow will mark the 30th year of his passing. Hollywood would not be the same without Warren’s contributions.

No comments: