Otto Abels Hauerbach, Lyricist.
Born: Salt Lake City, Utah 18th August 1873.
Died: New York 24th January 1963 at the age of 90.
Wrote “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and many musicals including Rosemary,
No, No Nanette, Sunny, Desert Song and many, many a
This American librettist and lyricist started out as an English teacher
before joining the New York News as a reporter. He worked with composer Karl
Hoschna on three musicals before teaming up with Rudolp Friml on Firefly
(1912) and Rose Marie (1924). He also collaborated with Louis Hirsch and
then most successfully with Vincent Youmans on Wildflower (1923) and No No
Nanette (1925). He wrote with George Gershwin on Song Of The Flame (1925)
and with Jerome Kern on Sunny (1925) The Cat And The Fiddle (1931) and Roberta
(1933). Oscar Hammerstein the theater owner asked Harbach to take his young
nephew Oscar Hammerstein 2nd under his wing as a collaborative lyricist for
the Sigmund Romberg musical Desert Song (1926) in which year Harbach had
five Broadway musicals running at the same time. Harbach was the President
of ASCAP in 1950 and 1953.
In the section on Jerome Kern, I wrote “If Kern (and Harbach) were
said to have created one perfect song, it must surely have been “Smoke Gets
In Your Eyes” with Otto Harbach for Roberta in 1933. It was to become Kern’s
favourite song from the show. The show itself struggled to survive but finally
broke through into profit helped “immeasurably by a sudden outburst of the
public’s whistling, humming, and crooning, it’s score.” The Herald Tribune
went on to say ““Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” has swept the dance floors, radio
studios and glee clubs of the country.”
After sixty some years of being around songs and songwriters, I’ve come to
the conclusion that a ‘ standard ‘is like some natural challenge, like an
Everest which has unlimited attraction, but no matter who climbs it the mountain
still stands. Singers come to these songs over and over again, but in the
end the song remains unassailable and waiting for the next worshiper to try
the slopes. “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” is one of these natural wonders. I
have heard the song sung and played by the best and the rest, but if I had
to recommend a single version of it to one of today’s youngsters to hear
for the first time, I would mention track 3 of Patti Austin’s Qwest CD 925
696 2 via Warner Brothers which moves the original Platters version to another
level of vocal inspiration.
The song is firmly fixed in the past. Songs involving smoking of any
sort would nowadays attract the Fresh Air Police and have you jailed. I can
only say, that if smoking was the cause of songs like “Smoke Gets In Your
Eyes” there is a case for reinstating smoking, on creative and artistic grounds!
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