Born in North Chelmsford, Massachusetts, on November 4, 1896, songwriter Harry Woods began his career as a lark, preferring to live as a farmer on Cape Cod. When the hits began coming, he left the farm and decided to pursue songwriting full time.
Woods was missing one hand, and would play the piano by pounding the keys with his stump. He wrote a remarkable series of hit tunes beginning with 1921’s “I’m Goin’ South” (with Abner Silver), which Al Jolson interpolated into the score of Bombo. Not all of Woods’s hits have stood the test of time. “Long Lost Mamma (Daddy Misses You)” was a hit in 1923 for Lanin’s Arcadians but is never sung today. More lasting is “Paddlin’ Madelin’ Home,” interpolated into the 1925 Broadway musical Sunny. The next year, Woods wrote a smash hit, “When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along” as well as the lesser hits, “Poor Papa (He’s Got Nothin’ at All),” with a lyric by Billy Rose, and “Me Too,” written with Al Sherman and Charles Tobias. His next monster hit was 1927’s “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover,” with a lyric by Mort Dixon. That same year, Dixon also supplied the lyric to “Just Like a Butterfly That’s Caught in the Rain.” Another 1927 Woods standard was “Side By Side.”
As sound films came into vogue, Woods contributed a plethora of songs to movies. In 1929, the film Swanee River boasted “River Stay Way from My Door” (Mort Dixon) and the film The Vagabond Lover, starring Rudy Vallee, premiered “Heigh-ho, Ev’rybody, Heigh-ho,” which would become Vallee’s theme song. Kate Smith found her theme song in “When the Moon Comes over the Mountain” (written in 1930 with Howard Johnson), which she first sang in the film, Hello, Everybody. “Just an Echo in the Valley,” (1932) was written with Englishmen Jimmy Campbell and Reg Connelly, and provided a hit for Bing Crosby. That same year, the trio also composed “A Little Street Where Old Friends Meet” and “Try a Little Tenderness.” Woods didn’t need a collaborator for “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” (1932).
The 1934 film Roadhouse featured Woods’s “What a Little Moonlight Can Do.” By that time, Woods was living in London practically full time, and he wrote songs for a variety of English motion pictures, most notably the 1935 Jessie Mathews vehicle, Ever Green. Woods wrote “Dancing on the Ceiling” for that film and it became associated with Matthews throughout her career. It would be the songwriter’s last hit, though he continued writing until his death in an automobile accident on January 14, 1970. (KB)
The lyric was based on a poem that Kate Smith wrote. It became her theme song for her entire career.When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain