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Harold Arlen: Rhythm, Rainbow, and Blues

Jablonski, Edward

When Truman Capote was approached in 1953 with the suggestion that he consider adapting his play House of Flowers into a musical with a score by Harold Arlen, it is said that Capote responded: "Who's Harold Arlen?" This proved to be a recurrent question during Arlen's career and one that Jablonski answers in his second biography of this composer known for his musical comedies. Expanding on the author's 1961 biography Harold Arlen: Happy with the Blues, this latest account of the Buffalo-born cantor's son, Hyman Arluck, provides a musical history of the artist's heyday. Unfortunately, these details at times tend to overshadow Arlen himself, such as in the informative chapter on the Cotton Club. Perhaps this is reflective of Arlen's professional experiences, as it was not until after the cult success of House of Flowers that Arlen emerged from the shadows of his contemporaries to be easily recognized for accomplishments such as having scored the films The Wizard of Oz (1939) and A Star Is Born (1954) and 30 musicals including Bloomer Girl and St. Louis Woman. Arlen also worked with lyricists Ted Koehler, E.Y. Harburg and Johnny Mercer to compose the popular songs "Get Happy," "Blues in the Night," "That Old Black Magic," "Stormy Weather" and Arlen's favorite, "Last Night When We Were Young," to name a few. This is a nostalgic guide for fans of Arlen and Tin Pan Alley, as well as musicologists.

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