Ralph Rainger was born in New York City on October 7, 1901. Rainger tried law school but soon felt drawn to the musical field. In 1926, he joined the Broadway musical Queen High as a rehearsal pianist. Soon he was playing in Broadway pit orchestras with fellow pianist Edgar Fairchild. The duo-piano team was successful on Broadway and in vaudeville. Rainger got a job in the orchestra of the revue, The Little Show and contributed a hit song, “Moanin’ Low,” with lyrics by Howard Dietz.
Leo Robin was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on April 6, 1900. He too went to law school but decided on songwriting. His first hit came in 1926 with “My Cutey’s Due at Two-to-Two Today,” with music by Albert Von Tilzer. Robin and Clifford Grey wrote lyrics to Vincent Youmans’s music for the show Hit the Deck (1927), with “Hallelujah” the big hit. Robin and Rainger first teamed up for the pre-code film Station S.E.X. in 1929. Robin and Richard A. Whiting wrote “Louise” for Innocents of Paris (1929) and he had a hit the next year with W. Frank Harling and Whiting on “Beyond the Blue Horizon” from Monte Carlo.
In 1932, Robin and Rainger joined Paramount, where they specialized in songs for Bing Crosby. Their films there included 1932’s The Big Broadcast, Here Is My Heart (1934), She Loves Me Not (1934), and Easy Living (1937). The, team had a big success with “Thanks for the Memory” in The Big Broadcast of 1938. It became Bob Hope’s theme song. The film also featured “You Took the Words Right Out of My Heart,” “Love with a Capital ‘You’” and “Mama, That Moon Is Here Tonight,” the last two for Martha Raye. Robin collaborated with Hoagy Carmichael and Sam Coslow on the hit “Kinda Lonesome” for 1939’s St. Louis Blues.
The team of Rainger and Robin moved to 20th Century-Fox in 1939. Rainger died in a plane crash on October 24, 1942. Robin began a collaboration with Harry Warren beginning with The Gang’s All Here (“The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat,” “No Love, No Nothin’,” and “Paducah.”) In 1946 Robin paired with Jerome Kern for Universal’s Centennial Summer (“In Love in Vain” and “Up with the Lark”). Also in 1946, Robin teamed with Arthur Schwartz for The Time, the Place and the Girl (A Gal in Calico,” “Oh, But I Do,” and “A Rainy Night in Rio”). Robin and Harold Arlen got together in 1948 to write “For Every Man There’s a Woman,” “Hooray for Love,” and “What’s Good About Goodbye” for Casbah. That same year, Robin retuned to Broadway with the smash hit Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Jule Styne supplied the music for “Bye Bye Baby,” “Just a Kiss Apart” and the standard “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”
In 1952, Robin and Harry Warren wrote the score to the film Just for You, (“Zing a Little Zong”). In 1954 came The Girl in Pink Tights, Sigmund Romberg’s final Broadway score. Don Walker completed the score according to Romberg’s notes, and the result is one of Broadway’s great undiscovered treasures. “Lost in Loveliness” was its hit. In 1955, after Jule Styne and Robin completed the film My Sister Eileen, Robin retired. He wrote one more score, with Styne, for the television musical The Ruggles of Red Gap in 1957.
After his retirement Robin was often offered assignments, including the lyrics for the stage musical Funny Girl, but he didn’t take on any more projects. He remains one of our finest lyricists with the ability to inject humor into a song while staying true to the nature of the character singing it. His lyrics never reveal the hand of the lyricist—they aren’t showy or self-conscious, like the works of many of his contemporaries. A solid craftsman as well as an artist, Leo Robin is an unsung genius of American popular song. (KB)
Youmans wrote a march while stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois. The year was 1917 and the song became something of a success, and was even recorded by the March King himself, John Philip Sousa. In 1927, Hallelujah made its debut on a Broadway stage with a lyric by Clifford Grey and Leo Robin. Its name got it into trouble in England, where they considered it sacrilegious.Hallelujah!
When Whiting and Robin were hired to write the songs for Innocents of Paris, Chevalier told them that when writing for him they should keep in mind his strong French accent. They tried out many women’s names on Chevalier before choosing “Louise.”Louise