The late Yip Harburg wrote the words to more than 600 songs in his life, but the one he’s probably known for more than all the rest is the iconic Over the Rainbow, from The Wizard of Oz, for which he won an Academy Award.
Harburg wrote the lyrics to all the songs from that movie, but his work extends far beyond Oz. He was the lyricist for show like Finian’s Rainbow and authored the Great Depression anthem, Brother, Can You Spare a Dime.
His music is also the theme – metaphorically – for the United Performing Arts Fund annual campaign, which is seeking to raise more than $12 million for arts organizations in Milwaukee.
“Milwaukee has a brilliant performing arts community that is as diverse as the city itself,” says film critic Ryan Jay, who was MC of UPAF’s campaign launch. “Locally the kind of entertainment the city provides is just outstanding and really couldn’t happen if it weren’t for the support of the United Performing Arts Fund.”
The campaign is also part of a larger effort to revive the memory of Yip Harburg’s work in musical theater. In fact, Jay and Aaron Harburg, Yip’s great-grandson, are working on a documentary called, The Sound of Oz.
“Everyone knows Over the Rainbow and may have a very personal connection to it, but don’t know the people who wrote it,” says Harburg. “I’m very happy that UPAF is focusing on my great-grandfather because that gives him some more visibility that I think is very much deserved and needed.”