NEW YORK — Some of the giants of American music gathered here this week to honor one of their own, the late Harold Arlen. Arlen died last April at age 81.
"Harold was really one of the great musical giants of our time--his music was original, artfully crafted and timeless," said Arlen's fellow songwriter Burton Lane at the belated memorial tribute sponsored by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) held at Broadway's Majestic Theater.
Others who spoke Thursday of "the permanence" of Arlen's music in American life included Leonard Bernstein, Sammy Cahn, Bobby Short and, in a film clip, the late lyricist E. Y. (Yip) Harburg, Arlen's "Oz" collaborator. "One of the problems of our age is that people write for how many copies it will sell, and not for how long it will last," Harburg said.
The timelessness of Arlen's songs was evident live on stage as Lena Horne and Tony Bennett sang a medley that included "It's Only a Paper Moon," "Accentuate the Positive," "Get Happy," "I've Got the World on a String," "That Old Black Magic," "Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe," "Come Rain or Come Shine" and Horne's signature song, "Stormy Weather."
The most moving portion of the one-hour tribute came when Lane was joined at a quartet of pianos by composers Cy Coleman, Jule Styne and John Green to play "Over the Rainbow," the perennial Judy Garland theme song from "The Wizard of Oz," for which Arlen won an Academy Award in 1939.